Diagnostic Testing by State

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Regulations vary from state to state with regard to diagnostic testing for learning disabilities.
Q
I would like my child's elementary school to test her for any learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD. I have been told by other parents to make this request to the school in writing, and that they must respond within a specific amount of time. Is this correct and how much time do they have to respond and to begin testing?
A
You don't indicate your home state, and regulations regarding this vary from state to state. In general, you can request that your child be tested. This request can be addressed to the principal or to the person who is in charge of referrals for exceptional child services at your daughter's school. In many states, there is no specific time limit for responding to such a request.

Again in most states, requests such as yours are referred to a committee within the school that handles referrals for testing. This committee will consider the request and will most likely begin the process of classroom interventions and screening, which could take four to six weeks to complete. (They could also decide to turn down your request.) Based on the results of the screening and interventions, at the end of that time the committee would decide whether or not to recommend psychoeducational testing. If testing is recommended, in most states the school has 90 days from the date you sign consent for testing to complete the testing process.

You can see that the process is a lengthy one. This safeguards the rights of the child, so that schools do not rush into testing or placing a child in exceptional children's services who simply needs a little extra help or more time. If you are interested in just determining if your daughter has a learning difference or ADD/ADHD, the screening done during the intervention period will give you the information you need.

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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