How to arrange an assessment
Assessments are a legal right for children with ‘special educational needs’ in the UK, and children with ‘specific learning disabilities’ in the USA. Even when this is not the case, it is usually easy to arrange an assessment in countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, and South Africa. There are three ways in which an assessment can be arranged.
If you want your child to be assessed by an educational psychologist from the Education Department then ask your child’s teacher how this can be arranged. It will also be necessary for you to ask your family doctor to arrange a separate referral to a paediatrician with an interest in learning difficulties. It is important that this paediatrician liaises with the educational psychologist who assesses your child.
Learning difficulties clinics
Learning difficulties clinics, or ‘dyslexia clinics’ as they are sometimes known, exist in children’s hospitals in most parts of the world. They are staffed by paediatricians, psychologists, social workers, and sometimes nurses, therapists, and teachers. They provide a ‘one-stop’ assessment of your child’s abilities by a number of professionals from different disciplines, working as a team. They usually have close links with education authorities, and their findings are invariably accepted without the need to duplicate tests. The multidisciplinary staff has extensive knowledge and experience of children with a wide range of learning difficulties.
Many parents prefer to have their child assessed at such a clinic, even where Education Department assessments are available. They prefer the convenience of seeing all the professionals at one time. This approach also allows more open communication for all concerned.
Perhaps the greatest advantage is that this type of assessment is not confined to educational issues alone. A wide range of problems experienced by parents can be discussed. Members of the assessment team are able to provide information about other services such as social skills groups and parent support groups. They can also advise about behaviour management, and will be able to give you information about alternative school options (both government and private) if necessary.
You may be able to find out about such a clinic through your child’s teacher or your family doctor. The organizations listed in the Appendix should also be able to direct you to such a clinic. Another way to find your local learning difficulties clinic is to phone the nearest children’s hospital.
Developmental paediatricians and psychologists in private practice
There are educational psychologists in private practice who will test your child, for a fee, and report their findings to you. In this situation, it will be necessary for your family doctor to arrange for you to see a developmental paediatrician separately. The developmental paediatrician and educational psychologist will need to liaise with one another to ensure a coordinated approach.
Some psychologists and developmental paediatricians in private practice have formed private learning difficulties clinics analogous to those described here.