Public School or Private Dr Testing for Possible IEP

Updated on October 26, 2010
E.B. asks from Waldorf, MD
17 answers

I have a very bright 3rd grader, who consistently tests well above grade level - since starting school. He reads books that I would read, and analizes things in ways I don't even think to do. But he gets poor marks on his school work (when he completes it) and has several emotional (no so much behavioral) problems. Several different ideas/thoughts have been suggested to - most having to do with some disability or another. We have talked to the school and seen the pediatrician and it has been recommended that we have him tested. It has been recommended to us to take him to be privately tested, even though the school system provides all sorts testing and subsequent help. I have been told I don't want the school getting involved though - and I have read things online about parents not agreeing with the Public Schools decisions/diagnoses or IEPs and then having to get lawyers involved or switch schools... none of which would help any child with a real problem. But I have heard that the local childrens mental health providers do alot of - Labeling and Medicating and sending out the door type things... which neither my husband or I want.. we want a solution - or atleast proper ways to handel whatever this may be - we do not want to sit on our thumbs and pump him full of meds. The 3rd alternative is to go through Children's Medical Center in DC - which we did for some surgery he needed this past year.... (unrelated surgery) But the wait is 6 months to a year just to get in to get an evaluation... and we don't want this going on for so long without intervention that it just gets worse... so my question is, what are your experiences with private vs public school testing... any advice is helpful advise is welcome... please no negative comments. One strong possiblity is aspergers, so if you have a child with that, then you will know what the personality is like - and would love input on what you did to get help. thanks in advance. sorry so long, i wanted to get all the info out at once.

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So What Happened?

we have previously been to the PED, had her evaluate him, had teachers and family fill out observation evaluations... the PED is who recommended not going local - but going to childrens - Childrens told us it could be 6 months to a year to get an evaluation.. so we are trying to decide if we should wait out Children's (for up to a year just for the eval) or if we should go ahead and let the school test him. I have exhausted all reading material I can find and think I know what it is... but i still need him to have formal evaluation.

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answers from Charlotte on

E., I would do both. Go ahead and get that appointment with the Children's Hospital. Get everything set up and you'll have that to look towards. Meanwhile, let the school do the testing. You really need to accept that he's going to have to have help, and the only way to GET the help is to have the testing. The school can look at both sets of tests. The tests will at least say where his strengths and weaknesses lie, and they can put together a plan. When you have the private testing, both these tests can be compared. It will help with the IEP.

I did this same thing for my younger son, E.. It really helped.

All my best,

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answers from San Diego on

We did both, and then some. There is a Dr. in the Peds group that does all the ADD, ADHD, Autism, Aspbergers stuff, and he evaluated my daughter. We then had the school do all their IEP evaluations, and then a couple of years later we paid $1000.00 and had a Psychologist test as well.

Good luck to you!!!


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answers from Columbus on

Why do you have to choose? The answer is, you need both, and there may be some things about the process that you do not like and that you cannot control, like what the most sucessful treatment will be. Let me clear up a real populuar myth for you, using medication and sitting on your thumbs are mutually excusive activities. Medication is a tool that many children need to make all the therapy, hard work, and intervention more effective, and the do a fabulous job of making kids with medical issues caused by neurological and developmental problems feel better while they undergo very difficult therapy. Let that go. None of what you are up against is an Either/Or situation. You do not choose public or private, you choose both, because that is appropriate, and you do not choose medication or therapy, because (chances are good) both are appropriate, and in any case, medication is never appropriate without therapy, although the inverse may be true for some.

You have some choices. You can either go see a Developmental Pediatrician or a psychiatrist/ Neuropsychological evaluation combo. Both will get you good evaluations that you can use to keep the schools honest. If you choose the latter, you may get in more quickly, but you will have to supplement with speech and language, OT, vision (developmental) ENT, Neurology, genetics, etc, and guess which ones of these are appropriate, and then try to figure out how they fit into your primary evaluation by yourself. I usually prefer a Developmental Pediatrician, because if you need ancellary evaluation, you get it in one full report. It also takes quiet a while, so you probably are 6 months out. You cannot speed up the process and get the kind of evaluation you need, even if you don;t want to wait.

Contact the school by writing them. Tell them that you suspect that he has a disablity, and you want him evaluated. Say that his educational need is (Blank) and list what he is having trouble with. They will contact you, and send you a copy of your rights. They can delay evaluation by meeting with you and telling you what in class interventions they will try first. You should document what they are going to do, and have a date that they will get back to you to tell you if these things worked. At that point, you can request the evaluation if he still needs it. Even if he has Asperger, and even if you have a private evaluation, the school must see an educational need to evaluate (thought you can inisist and win that round) and he must not only have a qualifying diagnosis, but also an educational need for seriveces to get special education accomodations and assitance. Being high functioning makes this a frustrating road. Log on to and start reading about advocacy, you will need to learn everything you can to navigate the system. Remember, the schools are there to educate him, and if he has asperger, his issue straddles the medical-educational fence, so you will be providing a great deal of his therapy and treatment, and the school will be providing educational serivices such that he is functional in the classroom. Anything beyond functional, falls on you, and that is the probelm with kids with apsperger, they are so bright that they seem more functional than they are.

Out put is generally their issue, figuring out how to tell the teacher what they know in just the crazy way that the teacher set up the assingment, even though they know the matieral better than most. If you can;t write the answer in a cloud, the issue becomes how well you can write in a squigly circle, and not if you know how to spell all the weather words you just learned. He will benefit from considerable accomodations, and you may find that they don;t always go smoothly, but the older he gets, the more important it will become.

If you find it overwhelming, you can find an advocate on the wrightslaw site, they will go to meetings with you, and help you navigate, that is what I do.

Never know less than the school does about your son. Know exactly what he needs, from the best private evaluation you can get, then negotiate for everything you can get him at school, and provide the rest privately. Get him the very best medical care you can, and don't prejudge what is out there, it is really nothing like what you are afraid of. Everything you try will not help, but something may work wonders.


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answers from San Antonio on

What if you did the local route first, but also put your name on the waiting list. Then, 6 months from now you can get your "second opinion" with the Children's Med Center. Even if the local people say he needs such-n-such drug, doesn't mean you have to give it to him. It's just their evaluation.

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answers from Washington DC on

Hi E.,

Public schools are extremely limited in what they can test for due to financial reasons and state time lines that must be followed.

As a teacher, I would say get any testing done that the school offers to get an IEP for your child. Then at least classroom accommodations can be made for his learning style. Then just wait for the appointment in DC. It is a tough situation because the doctors that are worth seeing are the hardest to get appointments for. Call that doctor office everyday to see if there were any cancellations that you could take, and you may luck out.

It is a shame because most public schools want to do so much more for their students; they are just not given the proper funding.

Good luck! I worked with a student with Aspergers. Remarkable person!!! His parents had to do private testing, but because we had reason to believe it was Aspergers, I started accommodations prior to test results coming back. Get the IEP, then legally, accommodations must be made.


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answers from Sacramento on

The school district can not diagnose a medical condition. To have your son properly evaluated, you need to pursue that through your medical plan and seek out specialists, like developmental pediatricians (not regular ones) or psychiatrists. Personally, I would get the help sooner rather than later and disregard hearsay about local providers (form your own opinions). Labeling isn't a bad thing at all. If your child has a condition, you want to know what it is, the same way you would if your child had diabetes or cancer. If you want to call that labeling, so be it, but a diagnosis enables you to help your child.

The school district can help you through the IEP process, which provides a customized educational plan for your child to thrive in school. This might include special accommodations based on his medical condition. Again, not a bad thing. Some schools are better than others to adhering to IEPs than others, which is where lawyers come into play. In most cases, it's not a problem.

As far as medications, it will depend entirely on what type of treatment the doctors feel is necessary based on the diagnosis. Be open minded. No one will "pump your child full of meds." They might recommend medication as the best treatment option based on what works best in treating a condition. However, you always have the option of saying no thanks if you choose not to. I do encourage you not to shut off this option, though, because you may see wonderful results in helping your child. There is a ton of misinformation and flat-out lies out there about medications used to treat medical conditions and you should get your information from the doctors. They're the experts. Ask tons of questions if medication is even discussed, so you have the reassurances you need. You're your child's advocate.

Best of luck to you as you begin this process!

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answers from Kansas City on

We've had fantastic success with our public school and our daughter's IEP. She was dismissed a year ago because the inverventions and accommodations that were suggested to us worked and worked well.

We chose to work as a team with our school and it paid off. They listened to our concerns, we listened to their recommendations and we compromised. Our daugher was successful because of it.

It's not always a battle. You don't always have to "fight"- most schools have highly educated professionals that know what they are doing. Sure, they may be tied by rules and regs of the district, but a good team will find a way to make your child the best that he can be.

Do both. Get on the wait list and have a second opinion for your child. Even if they do recommend drugs, it is to your benefit to at least hear them out and then make your decision.

Having been down this road (my daughter has a learning disability), here are a few recommendations I have for you:

1.) Read and re-read Martha R's post. She works as an advocate and believe me, if I ever needed one, I would want her on my team. She contributes regularly to this forum. Go to Wright's Law. I've been there and it's easy to navigate and it's written in normal language. Educate yourself!

2.) Get organized. You are about to enter a world of paper work and signatures and meetings and notes. Talk to the school about how to keep track of and organize all of the paperwork.

3.) Keep an open mind. Nobody will ever know your child better than you, but listen to the professionals, too. Don't just immediately write off a suggestion- think about it carefully before you make any decisions.

Good luck. I hope for the best for your child, you seem to be ready to take this on and I wish you success! Please keep us posted!

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answers from Norfolk on

We had private testing done but it was VERY expensive. After all the research I have done I am 100% sure my son has Aspergers but I have not had him identified as such as I did not want any labels attached. He is now in 7th grade and still struggles socially, but even that is improving. He qualified for a special program for middle school and even that is not as accademically challenging as he needs. (His nickname is the Almanac) You will need to provide enrichment outside of school for your son. The private testing did identify him as gifted and so he takes classes up at William and Mary in their SEP program. (Excellent program, check it out) For my son, the struggle has been the social skills, failure to check non-verbals from others, the lack of filter, etc. My advice to you is to be open with him. Believe me, he already knows he is different and will be relieved to know that there may be a reason. Also, you MUST be proactive with his school and advocate for his education. Good luck and contact me if you need any other help.

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answers from Hartford on

Like JessinTexas said, put your name on the waiting list, but have the school test him now. I know that there is lots of contentious discussions about public schools and IEPs. If the school system is good, they will put your child first and make good recommendations. It is as important to them as it is to you that your child suceeds. I went into my first school meeting with recorders, articles, advocates, etc. and they offered me more resources than I was even going to request. It has been an absolutely great relationship and not like the adversarial situations that I had heard about. I know it really varies with each district, but I think you should give the schools the benefit of the doubt so that they can start working with your child. Later, if you sense that your child is not getting what they need, then you have the Med Center appointment.
Good luck,

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answers from Chicago on

The very best source of informaiton regarding these issues is Wrightslaw. Take a look at their website:

A medical diagnosis is a separate (and somewhat unrelated, as far as the school is concerned) entity from an evaluation to determine what types of services are required for your son.

The school cannot provide you with a diagnosis for your son. However, they can (and will) execute their own assessment/evaluation of your son, no matter what you do. Their evaluation is what they will use to decide which, if any, services are necessary for your son to receive an apporpriate public education.

To best advocate for your son, you should do the following, prior to their evaluation (if at all possible):

1) Obtain a medical diagnosis from a Physician Specialist. This doesn't have to be from Children's Hospital -- any Physician Specialist who is able to make a medical diagnosis for your son will be fine. Look to your community and find other parents who have kids with Aspergers or PDD-NOS and ask who makes reliable diagnoses. Then, you can get your name on the waiting list for Children's, if you still want a 2nd opinion.

2) Find an independent professional, who is knowledgable about your child's disability, to evaluate your son (including classroom observation.) NOTE: This evalution is not for medical diagnostic purposes. This is to have a 3rd party run evaluations similar to what the school may conduct. Again, tap into your community to get some referrals.

The diagnosis alone does not, necessarily, warrant services from the school. However, a medical diagnosis is a very strong variable. The evaluation is the critical part. In the best case scenario, the evaluation from your indpendent professional matches the evalution from the school, and the recommendation for services is the same.

Hope this helps. It's a confusing world...try to find other Moms in your community for referrals and support.

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answers from Lynchburg on

Hi E.-

Two possible is kennedy krieger (affiliated with john's hopkins in baltimore...they are a pediatric unit...and I considered them when my daughter had been completely 'tube' fed...and we were wanting her to begin eating food by mouth. I know your issues are completely different, but they came highly recommended from many parents of kids with ALL sorts of 'special' concerns.

Also, in NE dc is 'hospital for sick children'...a small pediatric re hab hospital that we did use for a long time with our daughter...they have on staff an array of folks (OT, Speech, Physical therapists, psychologists as well as all 'flavours' of medical docs...My last contact was years ago...and the 'management' has changed...but they did many things 'out patient'...and many of the docs who consult there were from john's and or children's national. The address is bunker hill drive as I recollect...

Best of luck!

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answers from Kansas City on

We are going through a similar situation with my son.We had some concerns before he started school.We have already went to CM behavioral clinic who didn't really find anything.The Ped Doc and I both thought maybe it was aspergers but CM doesn't.CM told us to get him into counseling.So after starting school he is struggling.And like your Son,seems very bright.He answers Q's at school,talks about things he learns,etc.But when it's time to do worksheets he just sits there.The teacher told me she has tried every discipline and reward system she could think of and nothing is successful.I called the Ped and she said to have the school get him an IEP,and to call and let Cm know that he's struggling in school,and get him into counseling (which we had not done yet since CM recommended.)
My Husband doesn't really trust the school at all.And we don't know what to expect.I am fortunate enough to go to church with an IEP teacher and the lady that does the testing/observation for our school.After talking to them,the IEP can be very mild-severe.They will individualize it for your child and they discuss their plan with the parents.You have the right to refuse the treatment they recommend.And as far as getting someone from the public,as I said we haven't started it with him yet,but I have taken my oldest Son and know other people that do.And it's the same thing,you can get observed,counseled etc...and you can refuse meds.CM told me that the counseling was more to work with us to learn how to better parent him.I would personally have the school observe him and if they find something then I would take him to a mental health place and have them observe him as well.Then you have more than one opinion and if you need to get him treatment you can get treatment at school and home.Again remember,don't let what people say scare you off.You have the right to tell a Doc or school you don't want something.

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answers from Portland on

I recommend that you first utilize the school district system while being on the wait list at Children's. Use both systems. My grandson was evaluated by the school district process when he was 2 1/2 and has received help for apraxia of speech. He also has behavioral difficulties which the school district has apparently not been able to be of much help. But who knows what he'd be like without their intervention.

Learning issues are very complicated. With my experience I believe that a child can need assistance from more than one source. My grandson is nearly thru an evaluation process thru his medical insurance. He's now receiving extra occupational therapy which is focusing on managing his behavior. The testing showed that he lacks core strength. I would never have considered lack of physical strength as cause for misbehavior. He has symptoms, such as being unable to ride a bicycle at age 7, even tho trying to learn for several years, that point in that direction.

My grandson frequently refuses to try doing things, saying they're too hard to do. I suspect his lack of physical strength in some areas and his inability to talk clearly is at least part of the reason for his anger. Everything within a child influences how he acts. This includes facets that seem unrelated to actual learning in school.

We have found the school district intervention office to be helpful as far as they're able to go. They do lack money for sufficient resources for some conditions but that should not preclude working with them. They will be involved in forming an IEP even if they don't do the actual evaluation.

Their services are paid by tax dollars. I can think of only positive reasons to get involved with them now. The most important reason is to get your son immediate help. Then, follow up with private evaluation and treatment if it's needed.

You mention not wanting labels. I've been a bit frustrated because both the school district and the private providers are very reluctant to give labels. When working with learning disabilities, labels are of little use. They tend to oversimplify and I think that is what I'm wanting. A simple answer. There isn't a simple answer. Your son's situation is complex and treatment is apt to also be complex.

You are a concerned parent who is educating yourself. I suggest that you won't get lost in the system because you are bright and knowledgeable. It is truly best to get started NOW! The longer you wait the more entrenched your son's behavior will have become. There is also a window of opportunity that may not be there a year from now. I urge you to have the evaluation with the school district. Keep an open mind. Continue your own research. And have him put on the wait list for Children's Hospital.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My two oldest have problems to. They are in there 30's now so it was many years ago when schools didnt test and dr.s didnt have a clue. If you think this aspergers is what is wrong then go online and find out more and find the dr.s that specialize in this. Any pediatrition should be able to set these test up for you. Maybe go to them and ask them to. You wouldnt have such a long waiting period, feel for you,,,I went through hell almost 40 years ago, but its better now. go to your ped. or family dr. They should know what to do.

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answers from Washington DC on

i understand your confusion- i have been there. i have 3 long frustrating years under my belt with my 6 year old and the public school here in maryland (baltimore county). long story but my suggestion is to find a child psychologist and have him independantly tested. expensive but you may be able to submit to insurance. the results will be unbiased and they will be able to point you in the right direction. the hardest part is not knowing what his problem is, and you need to get a definitive diagnosis first. i scheduled my son with kennedy krieger first, thinking bigger was better, but they had a 4 month wait for the eval and it was $1,300 so the pediatrician said to try a private psych instead. saw him/observed him in school/tested him all within 3 weeks! it cost $350 and the diagnosis was dead right. as far as public school testing, the bottom line is money. the school psych tested him twice and said no problem and ended services. the private psych said-no, big problem. but we weren't surprised, bec as i said, its been 3 years of fighting to get services that he clearly needed, they constantly wanted to take away, service providers that were substandard, and having to use a child education law advocate on 2 occasions (talk about expensive) to stop the county from doing the wrong thing. in one case, they were breaking the law. agghh. you may also be able to take the private test results to the county and get services based on those results. good luck- J.

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answers from Washington DC on

I have a son who is 4 and has been in the "system" since birth. He now attends a specialty school due to our County not meeting the goals in my sons IEP and not being able to meet his needs. Would you feel comfortable seeing someone through the school initially and scheduling something through Children's and getting them to more or less give a 2nd opinion?? This may be best case senario for you. If you want something immediate. It is possible too that your ped can recommend someone else and still have Children's eval. at a later date. I have had everything done at Children's and through school as well. All of the Docs are great there at Children's! I can't always say the same for the staff but the nurses are great too. I would explore all of your options. Yes, going through the school system can be tricky but, if you search online for support groups related to what may be going on with your child now, you may be able to better prepare yourself. Always be one step ahead if you can. I will say it is very much a "word play" game when it comes to going for specific services through the county. I would research what a 504 plan is. Reaching out to someone that has been there and gone through what your getting ready to go through is very crucial. Your tax dollars are paying for those "free" services your County is offering so why not take advantage of it? You just need to learn how to "play the game". Remember, your the Best advocate for your child! No one knows your child like you, mom. That is why you need to make sure you educate yourself, not just on the symptoms of your child but, the process of an IEP, what services can be provided for your child, etc. One very important thing too...You do not have to sign an IEP at the meeting. You can take it home and review it before you decide it is right. If you don't agree you can call another meeting. Think about the goals at this point you would like to see your child reach too. Don't just focus on the problem, think about a year from now what do you want to see your child doing/ accomplishing and make sure you bring this all to the table if/ when you have a meeting. Good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on

Let the school do testing for educational purposes and get private testing. Unfortunately there is a wait so make the appointment right away. My middle daughter is 8 and has Autism, she has a medical diagnosis and the school is doing a very bad job educating her so we recently had the school pay for an independent evaluation. In my state you need the educational diagnosis and services are given out unfairly.

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