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My Child is Being Evaluated ...
hat Tests Should I Request?
by Pat Howey

"I think my child has a learning disability - what tests should I request?"

"My child has Down Syndrome - what tests should I request?"

I am an advocate, not a psychologist, so I do not advise parents to ask thei
r evaluator to use specific tests.

You want to select an evaluator who is knowledgeable about your child's disability. Your evaluator should have expertise and knowledge about a variety of tests and should use this expertise to select appropriate tests for your child. (Read How Can I Find an Evaluator or Educational Consultant)

Parents do need to provide their evaluator with proper information about the child - this information will help the evaluator decide which tests to administer. At a minimum, you should provide your evaluator with all previous testing and evaluations. Ask the evaluator what additional information s/he needs.

Learning About Evaluations

To learn about evaluations, read these articles about evaluations.

If you have Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd edition (FETA-2), the new book by Pete and Pam Wright, you should read Chapter 10, Tests and Measurements 101, and Chapter 11, Tests and Measurements 102. The second edition was revised to include
information about tests used to assess children and the strengths and weaknesses of these tests, including:

Reading Tests: What different reading tests measure and do not measure

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV)
: Index and Subtest  Scores; key differences between the WISC-III and WISC-IV

Other Measures of Intellectual Functioning
: Differential Ability Scales, Stanford-Binet, Woodcock Johnson, etc

Comprehensive Educational Achievement Tests
: Kaufmann, WIAT, Peabody, Woodcock Johnson-IV,

Single Subject Tests
: Gray Oral Reading Test, Woodcock Johnson IV Diagnostic Reading Battery, Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing, Test of Written Language, KeyMath, more

Personality Tests and Behavior Rating Scales

peech and Language tests and Vocabulary Tests

Learn How to Use Tests to Measure Progress

This is not to say that you should not learn about tests in general. You need to know the difference between criterion-referenced and norm-referenced tests. You need to know that test instruments must have high validity and high reliability. The validity of a test depends on whether the sample used to determine the norms for that test was made up of individuals who are similar to those for whom the test will be used.

Parents and advocates need to know how to use the Bell Curve to interpret the child's test results. You can learn about these topics by reading Measuring Progress: Tests & Measurements for the Parent, Teacher, Advocate and Attorney or Chapters 10 and 11 on Tests and Measurements in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition)

Know Your State's Rules & Laws About Testing

As a parent or advocate, you need to know your state's rules and laws about the requirements for testing children with special educational needs. If you do not understand these rules, the school may reject the independent evaluation that you, the parent, paid good money to obtain. It is just as important that you understand your state requirements as it is for you to understand the tests selected and the purposes for which these tests are used.

Let me give you an example. Indiana requires that children who are tested to determine
if they are eligible for special education due to a specific learning disability be tested in at least the following areas:

1. Ability testing, i.e., IQ
2. Achievement testing i.e., educational needs
3. Additional measures of achievement for identified areas of deficit identified by the first two areas of testing
4. Classroom observation
511 I.A.C. 7-26-8 (b) (1), (2), and (3)
Note: Please refer to 511 I.A.C. 7-26-8 (b) for other requirements.

As an advocate, I must advise parents that their independent evaluator is also required to assess all these areas. The last thing an advocate wants is to have the parents' expensive independent testing thrown out because it did not meet all the components required by law - especially when the parent relied on the advocate's advice.

For a student who is suspected of having some degree of mental retardation, I must advise the parent that Indiana law does not require a classroom observation for this disability category. Despite this, I strongly recommend that the parent request a classroom observation because this can provide valuable information about how the child learns and performs in the classroom environment. Indiana requires at a minimum, the following tests for a child who is suspected of having mental retardation:

1. Ability testing, i.e., IQ
2. Achievement test, i.e., educational needs
3. Adaptive Behavior assessment
511 I.A.C. 7-26-9 (b) (1), (2), and (3).
Note: Please refer to 511 I.A.C. 7-26-9 (b) for other requirements.

Advice from an Advocate: Responsibilities, Duties and Knowledge

If an advocate accepts the responsibility of representing to parents what types of tests are required, the advocate also assumes the duty to ensure that the parent understands all the legal requirements under state law.

If you select an independent evaluator who is knowledgeable about your child's disability and you trust the evaluator, you need to have confidence that the evaluator will determine and use appropriate tests for your child.

However, you should not assume that your independent evaluator is knowledgeable about all the legal requirements about testing in your state law.

An advocate should also know which independent evaluators are reputable and which evaluators are on the school's referral list. Being in a position to provide parents with this specialized information is part
of what makes the advocate such an important resource for parents of special needs children.

Copyright © 2005-6 by Pat Howey.

Related Articles

What to Expect from an Evaluation. In this excellent article, psychologist and literacy researcher Marianne Meyer walks you through the process of gathering information and participating in the evaluation process.

What You Should Know About Evaluations
As a parent, you must make sure that all areas of possible need are assessed as quickly as possible. While some parents would rather not allow their school system to evaluate their child, a refusal to cooperate at this stage of the process can backfire . . . " Read article

Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs): What? How? Why? Who Pays? Parent attorney Wayne Steedman describes IEEs, the value of IEEs for parents and school personnel, what the law requires, and who is financially responsible.

Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs): Must Parents Chose an Evaluator from School's Approved List? In 2004, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) published a Policy Letter about IEEs and parent choice; clarified that parents have a right to choose their independent evaluator.

Tests, Testing Issues and Advocacy. Dr. Bill Matthew, Director of Special Education, Delano, CA, offers suggestions about tests and and testing issues, including age & grade equivalents, subtest scatter, improper use of projective tests, and tests that are psychometrically sound.

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPatricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.

Pat is a charter member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), serving on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2003. She has been a Commissioner on the Tippecanoe (County) Human Relations Committee, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and Partners in Policymaking, and a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. She has been on the faculty of the College of William and Mary Law School’s Institute of Special Education Advocacy since its inception in 2011.

Pat has an A.S. and a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal and an affiliate member of the Indiana Bar and the American Bar Associations.

Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.

In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.

"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time.

Contact Information

Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117

Revised 07/20/19

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