Understanding the Professional Evaluation Process

1 Jan

Being tested for dyslexia or a language or learning disability involves a comprehensive assessment that provides you with a clear understanding of your competencies in the following areas:
• Oral language
• Phonological skills (e.g., phonemic awareness, rapid automatic naming)
• Decoding
• Reading fluency (i.e., rate and accuracy)
• Reading comprehension
• Spelling
• Writing
• Skills that might also be a part of the testing battery may include: articulation, social, and/or oral motor difficulties.
Evaluations should be performed by a professional with knowledge about speech, language, reading, spelling, and writing development. A Master’s-level speech-language pathologist who is certified by the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) is an excellent choice, as is a school or private psychologist or a learning disabilities specialist. By familiarizing yourself with the available testing procedures and options, you can better understand what you need in an assessment and how your disability impacts your learning or work performance. Here are some things to consider before, during and after an evaluation for dyslexia or language disability.
What to Expect Before the Evaluation
As part of a comprehensive evaluation, you may be asked to fill out a checklist and/or language and behavioral inventory regarding your current status, developmental and medical history, family history, and educational history. When you meet with the professional, he/she will offer interpretations of the data and initial impressions, which will inform the testing. The practitioner will be able to tell you which tests will be administered and why.
Questions to Address Prior to Agreeing to Assessments
1. What is the purpose of the testing? Is it to establish a baseline of skills or to determine whether or not I have a specific disability? Is it to measure ability or academic achievement?
2. What is the assessment’s protocol and format? Is the test timed, multiple-choice or fill in the blank, oral or written? For what age is the test standardized? Is it administered individually or to a group?
3. Is the choice of an instrument validated for the specific purpose for which the evaluator is seeking clarification or baseline data? Is the evaluator trained according to the publisher of the test?
4. If I have sensory or physical limitations, will the test provide accurate data relative to my knowledge and performance capability or will it merely measure my disability?
5. How often should I be tested? When is it important to vary the assessment tool so that the data are valid and not hindered by repetition?
6. Will the whole test or only some of the subtests be administered? How are the professionals making their selections? If they are giving only part of a test, will this give you a standardized score?
What to Expect During the Evaluation
The length of time for a comprehensive evaluation will depend on the number of areas to be assessed and the age of the individual. A language and literacy evaluation typically lasts between 3-4 hours for younger children and 6-8 hours for teens and adults. The professional will use his or her judgment to determine what is best for you. You’ll want to be sure that the diagnostic tools are age-appropriate and designed to assess the specific areas of concern. Everyone, regardless of age, should have passed a recent screenings for hearing and vision
What to Expect After the Evaluation
Following the evaluation, you (the client) are provided with a report that gives a diagnosis, outlines recommendations for therapy, activities for home practice, school support and accommodations. Recommendations should include your present level of functioning and clearly outline the path you need to take to get the needed support to succeed academically and in life.
A typical diagnostic report from a professional might include the following:
• A statement about how or why you were referred to this professional
• A one-paragraph summary of the professional’s initial impressions
• A comprehensive list of the assessments/tools used to reach a diagnosis
• Information regarding how the test is typically administered and scored
• A summary of findings and results
• A prognostic statement, which is the professional’s best prediction of long-term outcomes for you
• A list or summary of needed interventions to accomplish short and long-term goals, with some descriptions of types of intervention as well as number and/or length of appointments
• Follow-up assessments, if recommended

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