In some situations, it can be helpful to get an outside evaluation from a doctor yourself in addition to the evaluations your local organizations provide.
Most evaluations are done by a small group of teachers and therapists. A doctor may or may not be part of the evaluation; however, they may be needed for a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, depending on the laws where you live.
In some circumstances, an outside medical evaluation can be very valuable. First, for a child on the autism spectrum, you have a diagnosis, and many doctors are also willing to write specifically how many hours and what types of interventions they feel would best serve the child.
In some circumstances, this can be very helpful at your IEP or IFSP meeting. Every region is a little different in how they do things, and each situation is unique as to whether this would help or not.
Therapists, psychologists, and teachers evaluate and recommend services for your child, and you need their recommendations to receive those services. But you may need a MD or psychologist 's diagnosis and recommendations also to receive specific types and quantities of services appropriate for your child, depending on how your area does things. So check.
Wrightslaw has a wonderful article “10 Tips How to Use IDEA 2004 to Improve Your Child's Special Education“, by Wayne Steedman, which touches on many aspects of the IDEA 2004 changes, including how to pick a diagnostician that's qualified and choosing someone who your school district listens to.
A good book to read is “How to Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child” by Gary Mayerson. He's a child advocate attorney, specializing in special education law. It's a good start to figuring out what to do in the process. In his book, he also touches on this subject of outside evaluations.
At this point, you may want to contact a local child advocate attorney for advice on options available to you. You may also want to talk to other parents in your area who went through the same process, to see what they did and what their outcomes were. Often times, other parents and your child advocate are the only people who can tell you what the reality is in your area.
If you would like to have a doctor evaluate your child, you may have to ask for it as part of the evaluation, or just get it done yourself privately, either out-of-pocket, or via insurance, if your plan covers it.
And of course, if you are so fortunate as to find out after evaluations that your child is okay, count your blessings. It was still worth it to find out early on.
No matter what the result of your evaluation, trust your gut instincts. If there seems to be something the doctors and therapists missed, ignored, or you feel the evaluation was not accurate in some way, you can always ask for a second opinion and have your child reevaluated. Things can be missed, even by a good evaluator.
There is something to be said about the “labeling” your child issue; however, it would be much better for most autistic children to have a diagnosis and receive needed services than to miss out on important interventions. You can work on transitioning to regular class later, if it’s a reasonable solution for your child. Again, a very good question to ask your legal advocate.
Of course, if you can pay for evaluations and services yourself, you never need to worry about the labeling issue, because the school system doesn’t have to be involved. Some people do this, but for most of us, the cost of running this kind of program out of pocket would be prohibitive.
Again, I'm a layperson, not an attorney, so please get the advice you need from someone who specializes in special education law in your vicinity. This is just a “heads-up” article for those who didn't know that outside evaluations are a possibility.
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