CHILD AND ADOLESCENT TESTING
Dr. Hilya conducts evaluations that are a comprehensive look at a child's academic performance, socio-emotional functioning, as well underlying cognitive processes that impact how he or she learns. If you have a child who seems bright but struggles in the educational setting, if you are concerned about your child having learning or attentional issues that are negatively impacting school performance, or think your child may have developmental delays or autism, an evaluation can provide you with clarify and a deeper understanding of what your child needs to succeed. An assessment will help you understand your child's learning profile, including brain processes such as attention, executive functions, problem solving abilities, visuospatial skills, learning and memory to name a few. Testing can help establish diagnostic clarity, such as whether the child is gifted, twice exceptional, autistic, has ADHD, a learning disability, or is impacted by anxiety, etc. Most importantly, the assessment provides an individualized road map for optimizing your child’s learning and mental health. It provides individualized recommendations and referrals based on your child’s strengths and needs to guide decision making with regard to school placement (including any necessary supports and services) as well as therapeutic needs. Assessments are funded privately or through independent education evaluations (IEEs) by local school districts.
An initial intake meeting to gather information regarding areas of concern and the history of these issues
Review of background records
An observation of children in the school setting
Interviews with teachers or other individuals who know the client well
Data gathered through questionnaires completed by caregivers and teachers
In-person testing across 2 – 3 days
Feedback meeting to review and discuss results and recommendations
A copy of the complete report
The information gathered from interviews, observations, test data and narrative on how the child approaches and completes testing tasks, are integrated into a conceptualization of how your child learns and responds to social and environmental stimuli. A psychoeducational evaluation report will help you understand your child’s learning and behavioral profile by identifying the underlying reasons why you may see challenges in the school or home setting Parents are provided with a copy of the report which is also reviewed through an extensive (1.5 to 2 hour) feedback session. This feedback session provides an opportunity for parents to not only fully understand the results and recommendations but to be supported regarding how to go about accessing the necessary supports, services, or interventions their child may need.
The following section provides you with additional information regarding:
HOW TO SELECT AN EVALUATOR FOR PSYCHO-EDUCATIONAL TESTING
Having your child evaluated is an important decision not only because of the questions you hope will be clearly and adequately answered, but also because of the time and cost involved. If you are new to this process, you are likely to have many questions about how to find the right provider, what to expect in terms of costs, and what the differences are when you pay privately vs. going through insurance or your school district. We hope to shed light on some of these important considerations here.
1. Does Insurance cover testing?
If you want to have your child tested because they are struggling in the school setting with learning or paying attention, it is unlikely that you will be able to have this type of evaluation covered by insurance. Insurance companies consider learning related issues to be the domain of school districts and consequently do not cover testing services related to these needs. If the issues are related specifically to memory, focus, attention, or impulse control problems, it is possible to receive partial coverage for some of the costs. This is dependent on your specific Insurance plan.
When testing is covered by insurance, it can be more cost effective but there are also more limitations with regard to how testing is completed. While a private evaluator can spend 1-2 hours conducting an intake and 1-2 hours explaining the results and recommendations, an insurance-based provider is likely to be much more limited in the duration of these appointments.
Many private evaluators can also take the time to observe a child in settings other than the testing office, often gaining valuable insights into how the child does in a school setting or while interacting with friends. Insurance based providers complete all testing within their office.
The number and type of tests administered during private evaluations is also likely to be much more comprehensive. Private evaluators can spend anywhere between 6 – 10 hours testing a child and obtaining data from not only how the child does on these tests, but also the way they approach tasks, deal with frustration, sustain their efforts, etc. Insurance based testing is typically completed in one day and a much smaller time frame and evaluators rely on questionnaires completed by parents and teachers to obtain much of their data.
2. What if my child’s school is offering to complete the evaluation?
School psychologists are trained in testing children for the learning and attentional issues that can often impact academic performance. If your child’s educators have held a meeting with you and offered to provide testing services to better understand what factors may be contributing to your child’s learning or behavioral challenges in school, this is often a great place to get started. School psychologists have the benefit of being “on-site” and able to observe the child on more than one occasion and to collaborate more extensively with teachers or other providers at the school, such a speech or occupational therapists. While there are some limitations on what tests school psychologists can administer within the State of California, their evaluation is not only an important starting point, but also a requirement if you want to pursue any supports or services for your child.
Even if you pay for a private evaluation, the school must conduct their own testing prior to the team meeting where findings and recommendations are discussed.
3. Why seek out a private evaluation if the school has already tested my child?
The school team will share the findings and recommendations of their assessment with you during a formal meeting. If you feel that their evaluation adequately captures your child’s learning needs and are happy with the modifications, accommodations, supports and services being implemented, it is best to continue to collaborate with the school team.
If you disagree with the findings of the assessment and want another evaluation completed by a psychologist independent of the school system, you have the option of paying for a private evaluation.
There are also instances in which the school agrees to pay for the completion of an independent educational evaluation (IEE) by a private psychologist. If the district has agreed to fund an IEE, you will be able to have testing completed at no cost to you by a psychologist of your choosing.
4. How do I best select an evaluator?
Given the time, resources, and cost involved in having your child tested, it is crucial to choose an evaluator who is the best fit for you and your child. The following are some considerations when selecting an evaluator?
Do they have experience and expertise in testing students of this age?
How much time will they be spending on the evaluation and what is the rational for how that time is spent?
What is included in the evaluation (i.e. will they do a school observation, will they meet with you and provide enough time to ensure you understand the results and recommendations, do they interview teachers or other professionals who know your child, etc.)?
How long will it take from the time that evaluation process is started until you receive the completed report?
Will you receive a full copy of the report at no extra charge upon completing the feedback meeting?
Will the report include recommendations regarding your child's school placement, necessary accommodations, modifications, supports and services to be provided in the school setting, and therapies that should be accessed outside of school?
Do they offer child or teen feedback sessions?
Is the evaluator willing to meet with the school team to present the findings and recommendations?
If the evaluation is funded through the school district in the form of an IEE, it is important to find out whether the evaluator is willing and capable of presenting and answering questions regarding their results and recommendations during an IEP meeting and any subsequent hearings, including possible court proceedings.
The intake is a chance for you to share not only areas of concern, but also the unique strengths and talents that your child possesses. We believe it imperative to identify and draw upon each child’s areas of strength when putting together plans for accommodating their needs.
The testing itself will often take place over the course of 2 – 3 days, lasting anywhere from 4 - 6 hours each day, at our office in Encino. It is best to ensure that your child is well-rested on the nights prior to each testing session. A good breakfast and plenty to drink prior to the evaluation are also recommended. Parents remain in the waiting room adjacent to the testing room for the duration of the testing sessions. It is best to bring things to keep you occupied given the length of time you will be there. Wifi access is provided to all families in the waiting room. You are also encouraged to bring snacks and be available as needed to the kids during breaks.
Given our expertise in working with children, we recognize that building rapport and helping the child feel at ease in the testing environment is an essential aspect of obtaining results that reflect their true abilities. We do this through playfully engaging with the child, familiarizing them with the materials and activities of the day, and letting them know there will be opportunities for breaks and time with their parents.
The actual activities of the testing day may include:
Solving puzzles, building with blocks, and drawing
Listening to information given and answering questions
Looking at pictures to find patterns or how things may relate to each other
Learning and memory games involving pictures, words, numbers and stories
Computer based tasks
Academic tasks like reading, writing, math and spelling
Once testing is completed, our job is to synthesize and integrate all the data we have collected through the process of observing, testing, and gathering data from teachers and caregivers. We do this through writing a report that summarizes the presenting concerns and relevant history as well as our findings and recommendations. The report is shared with you through a feedback session, typically scheduled for 1 – 2 hours.
The feedback meeting is one of the most important parts of the evaluation process. It is not only an opportunity for you to hear the results and recommendations, but also a time for you to ask questions to ensure you have an accurate understanding of the information being presented to you.
You should walk away from this meeting feeling like you have answers to the questions which brought you in for testing as well as a road map of where to go from here with regard to the necessary supports, interventions, accommodations and modifications.
The information reviewed with you during the feedback meeting will all be detailed in the report which will be shared with you in full subsequent to this meeting. The report will contain all test results and recommendations. It will be a document that you can share with educators and other professionals as a means of securing support, services, and appropriate educational placement.
It is also possible to provide a child feedback session. The goal of this session would be to provide older kids and teens a developmentally appropriate conceptualization of their learning profile to promote self-awareness and self-advocacy. The feedback session for a child or teen will be scheduled separately from the parent feedback meeting.
Seeking an autism evaluation is the right step for you if you are a parent seeking to understand your child’s developmental profile to provide the appropriate therapies, services, and accommodations enabling them to fulfill their potential.
Completing an autism evaluation is also for adults who want to better understand themselves and their struggles. A diagnosis can help you develop a new and more adaptive narrative around areas that you have experienced as challenging throughout your life. It also enables you to connect with a community of like-minded others where you experience a sense of belonging.
While there are standardized tools available to use in the process of evaluating individuals for autism, this is a specialized area that requires not only training in using these tools, but also substantial experience working with autistic individuals. Autism is truly a spectrum and there is a great deal of variability in how symptoms present and impact day to day life. With over 20 years of experience working with autistic children, teens and adults, Dr. Hilya is familiar with the nuanced ways in which autism can be present. She also recognizes the importance of listening to the voices of those in the autistic community and understanding autism and autism interventions based on their experiences. She has expertise in evaluating women and girls who have historically been under-diagnosed due to the compensatory strategies they can develop for navigating social and societal expectations.
The experience that Dr. Hilya brings to these evaluations is also beneficial once you or your child have a diagnosis. She will be able to collaborate with you to better understand and navigate the range of supports and services that are available through school and government agencies. You will also be given a complete written report that can be submitted to schools, insurance, and government agencies in order to access services or accommodations that are available to autistic individuals.
If you want to find clarity for yourself or your child by seeking out an autism evaluation, contact our office to schedule a free, 20-minute phone consultation.
LETTER TO KIDS AND TEENS COMING IN FOR TESTING
Each of us are good at doing certain things.
These things feel like they just come easily to us.
There are other things that we have to work harder
at doing. Sometimes we have to work extra hard!
It can feel frustrating if we try and try and still have
a difficult time with something. If you are finding
some things to be hard for you, no matter how
much you try, my job is to understand why that is.
By understanding it, your family and teachers can
figure out a way to make it better for you.
My job is to learn about you by having you do lots
of different things. When you come to my office, we
will do some things that are similar to what you might do in school. Other things will be new for you. We will sit at a desk and work together, draw, build with blocks, look at pictures, and do things that are like puzzles. We will also have a chance to take breaks, have snacks, and talk about things of interest to you.
You will probably find some things we do to be more fun while others might seem boring or just not as interesting for you. The things we do together will often start out easy and get more difficult as we go. I am excited to see not just what is easy for you, but also what you find challenging. It’s one of the ways I learn about you!
I see all kinds of kids in my office and for lots of different reasons. Some kids love school while others are having a very hard time and have lots of big and difficult feelings about learning. I see kids of all ages, including teenagers and adults too! I am excited to meet you and spend time getting to know you!
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING A PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL EVALUATION
The first step in any evaluation is an initial consultation call with the psychologist who will be conducting the assessment. This is an opportunity for you to briefly present your current concerns about your child and what is leading you to seek out testing at this time. This is also a chance for you to find out if the evaluator and the type of assessments provided is the right fit for your needs. If you are ready to proceed, the psychologist will formulate a specific plan for how to evaluate your child based on the specific questions and concerns at hand.
Initial Intake Meeting
In our practice, once you decide to move forward with our services and complete the intake paperwork, an initial Intake meeting takes place. This meeting can last between 1 to 2 hours and gives you time to provide the relevant background and history (including developmental history) for the current presenting concerns. It also allows for an in-depth conversation regarding what questions you hope will be answered by the evaluation process.
You play an important role in the evaluation process by providing both current and historical information about your child. Begin collecting documents that may be helpful to the evaluator and share them early on in the evaluation process. These documents can include report cards, reports from previous evaluations, IEP documents, or any standardized testing results.
Subsequent to the intake meeting, a school observation is scheduled. The observation is a valuable initial step in getting a glimpse into how your child responds to teachers, peers, and academic demands in real time. The observation is typically 1 – 2 hours in duration to allow for seeing kids across both structured and unstructured activities, such as in the classroom and on the playground during recess time.
Starting the Evaluation Process
At the start of the evaluation process, questionnaires are sent out to caregivers and teachers to begin the process of gathering data regarding the child’s functioning across the domains of behaviors, socialization, emotional regulation, attention, learning, and adaptive functioning, to name a few. Interviews are also scheduled with teachers and/or other professionals who know the child well.
Autism evaluations are provided for individuals across the lifespan, including children as young as 3 years of age and adults of any age. These assessments take a more in-depth look at developmental history, the individual’s sensory processing, use of verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to engage in joint attention, reciprocal social exchanges, and to exhibit behavioral and cognitive flexibility.