Here are some important points to consider when deciding whether to bring in a child for evaluation or to undergo evaluation yourself:
- Just because someone reads or processes information slowly or occasionally makes careless mistakes, he or she is not necessarily learning-disabled or has a serious attention deficit. Difficulties could result from educational deficits as well as emotional and temperamental factors. To obtain accommodations for the testing boards, diagnosed disabilities must meet DSM and ADA criteria for learning disabilities, ADHD, psychological or psychiatric disorders.
- Accommodations can be granted for impairment due to medical conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, orthopedic problems and psychiatric disorders like bipolar illness. If you are on medication that induces fatigue or restlessness, that may qualify, too. Psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety also can qualify if they impair functioning.
- The results of an evaluation may surprise you. Going into an assessment, you may think that your functioning is very impaired, but your test scores may show otherwise. In addition, because testing techniques have improved, and some evaluations are more comprehensive than others, a more recent evaluation may generate conclusions different from those found in previous evaluations. For example, someone who thinks he has a reading disability sometimes is found to have an attention deficit, while someone who thinks she has an attention deficit may actually have an anxiety or depressive disorder.
- Undergoing an evaluation does not mean you have purchased accommodations. The principal purpose of the evaluation is diagnostic. The difficulties presented then must qualify as a disability per the above criteria. Keep in mind that even if you received accommodations in high school, graduate examination boards have stricter criteria and may not grant the same accommodations you received in the past.
- Documentation must be submitted several weeks in advance of the date on which you’d like to take the test–so plan accordingly. For example, for the GMAT, documentation must be submitted three weeks before the test; for the GRE or TOEFL, documentation must be submitted six weeks before; for the SAT, documentation must be submitted seven weeks before.
- An evaluation generated for the SAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT and other standardized tests will also be accepted by universities abroad as an application for accommodations.
- An evaluator should know how to make a qualitative assessment of data and be able to “read between the lines.” An evaluator should be familiar with the full spectrum of learning disabilities and psychological disorders in order to make an appropriate differential diagnosis. The evaluator should also have some medical knowledge so that he could make appropriate referrals and get confirming or disconfirming information. For example slow reading speed could be the result of vision focusing deficits and poor concentration could also be caused by anemia or a host of other medical or psychological issues. When choosing an evaluator, look for one with breadth of general DSM knowledge.