Independent Assessments

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Parents need to know their child’s strengths and areas of need in order to make a treatment plan. This is done by conducting assessments. Assessment is the formal process where professionals analyze data to measure knowledge and skills.

Where to Begin

Assessments may evaluate a broad range of skills or be very specific to a skill area. Work with your evaluator to determine the best assessments to use for your child. Once the initial assessment is completed, you should have data-driven information to develop educational or therapeutic treatment plans.

Standardized Assessment
  • Measures and compares your child to a large group of same age/grade level children.
  • Scoring can be confusing. Ask your evaluator to explain the meaning behind the scores.
    • Example scoring: a score of 90th percentile means that the individual scored higher than 90% of the same age/grade level reference group.
  • Common standardized assessments:            
    • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
    • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)
    • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children 5th Edition (WISC-V)
    • Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, 2nd edition (KTEA-II)
    • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales 2nd edition (Vineland2)
    • Sensory Processing Measure (SPM)
Non-Standardized Assessment
  • Looks at data, but does not compare scores to other children
  • Can be very specific to a skill
  • Types of non-standardized assessments:
    • Checklists
    • Teacher/therapist taken data
    • Observations
    • Interviews
Public School Assessment vs. Independent Assessment

Here is a comparison of public school versus independent assessments. Knowing the difference between the two types will help you determine best fit for your child’s needs.

*Information about the federal law which states public schools only have to consider data and recommendations from independent evaluations can be found here.


Evaluating Progress

Now that an educational or therapeutic plan has been carried out, how do you know that it’s working? Conducting annual reviews of previous assessments allows you to compare scores and evaluate progress. This new data gives you and the providers important information on whether any changes need to be made in order to optimize progress.

Annual Review
  • Initial assessments provide base-line data on what your child’s present level of performance is at that given time.
  • Assessments in certain specialty areas should be updated on (at least) a yearly basis
    • Occupational therapy
    • Speech therapy
    • Physical therapy
    • Behavior therapy
    • Individual academic skills such as reading and math skills
  • Comparing yearly assessment data allows the parents to see progress trends and if intervention plans need to be changed.
  • Request your child’s provider perform a standardized assessment at any time you feel it is needed to establish rate of progress or if the program is appropriate.

School District Responsibility

School districts are required by law to assess students to determine eligibility and placement in special education services. These assessments are conducted by employees of the school district. There are situations when the school district must pay for an assessment to be done by a professional outside of the school district. This is referred to as an Individual Education Evaluation (IEE).

Individual Education Evaluation (IEE)
  • The public school system may be responsible for financial payment of an Independent Education Evaluation if:
    • The school district cannot perform an evaluation that the IEP teams agrees is needed.
    • The parent disagrees with the school district’s evaluation results.
      • If a parent disagrees, the school district may agree to funding an IEE -or- file a due process hearing.
    • A due process hearing officer requests an independent assessment
  • The assessment must be conducted by a neutral third party that has equal credentials as the school district evaluator.
    • The school district may provide the parent with a list of qualified examiners.

In Summary

While public school assessments are mandatory for establishing special education services, independent evaluations provide a more comprehensive picture of your child’s strengths and needs. Independent assessments give the parents knowledge needed to make decisions on therapeutic and educational interventions.

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Additional Reading:

*All content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, therapist, or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have.