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Mailing Address:
The Valley Hospital
223 N. Van Dien Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Evaluation of Developmental and Educational Concerns

 When Do You Seek an Evaluation?

  • The child is not mastering skills that you would expect for a child of his/her age.
  • For children who come from orphanages — if there is not at least one month progress for each month in your home.
  • Behavioral issues (frustration, aggression) are emerging at home and/or at school.
  • Child is having difficulty with school performance, homework, and/or peers.
  • Child has a diagnosis or medical condition that is associated with or places them at risk for developmental issues (e.g., premature birth, Down Syndrome).

What Types of Evaluations Do You Need?

  • Unless your child has a very specific problem (e.g., a lisp), a comprehensive evaluation is often needed to gain a full understanding of your child’s developmental diagnosis.
  • It is also important to determine if there is an identifiable medical cause for your child’s developmental difficulties.

Getting a Developmental Diagnosis

Multidisciplinary evaluations look at multiple areas of development and should include some or all of the following depending on your child’s age and difficulties:

  • Developmental testing (young children)
  • IQ testing and achievement testing (school age)
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech/language
  • Feeding evaluations
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Vision and hearing evaluations (all children)

Establishing a Medical Diagnosis 
The medical evaluation can be done by one or a combination of the following professionals:

  • Your child’s physician if he/she has interest and training in doing these types of evaluations
  • Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrician
  • Pediatric Neurologist
  • Child Psychiatrist
  • Geneticist

Where to Go for a Comprehensive Developmental Evaluation 
Private resources:

  • Hospitals with child development centers and evaluation teams
  • Pediatric rehabilitation centers
  • Community private practices (psychologists, learning consultants, occupational therapists, speech/language therapists etc.)

Public resources:

  • Mandated by federal and state laws. Click here for more information.
  • Education for All Handicapped Act (PL 94-142, 1975) and Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA: PL 99-457, 1986; PL 105-17, 1997) provide evaluation for all children ages birth to 21 years and services for those with developmental or learning difficulties who meet qualification criteria.
  • Evaluation and services are free and do not require a referral from a physician or insurance company approval. Parent only needs to call appropriate agency. Evaluation may not include a medical component.

Early intervention:

  • Evaluation and services for children ages birth to 3 years usually provided in the home environment.
  • Team evaluation results in Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children who qualify.
  • Children who are at risk for developmental difficulties but do not exhibit significant delays can be enrolled in a “tracking” program and should receive ongoing developmental screening.
  • To qualify a child typically must exhibit 33 percent delay in one domain of development or 25 percent delay in two or more domains of development.
  • The amount of services provided varies based on a child’s needs and state regulations.

Special education:

  • The school district is responsible for evaluating and providing special education services for children ages 3-21 years of age (to receive services, children must meet state requirements).
  • If a child is in Early Intervention, this program should help the child “transition” into a specialized preschool program.
  • For children who have not been evaluated, are not receiving services or are receiving private therapy, the parent needs to send a letter to the principal or director of special education requesting an evaluation.
  • Comprehensive testing needs to be performed within state-specified time period.

What about children who have difficulties but do not “qualify” for Special Education services?

  • Section 504 – Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Appeals process and mediation
  • Private resources

Important points:

  • If you are worried about your child’s development or learning, seek further evaluation.
  • Be familiar with the laws which provide evaluations and services for your child including timelines for completion of the process.
  • Research private resources for evaluation and services.
  • Contact advocacy and support groups and request written literature.
  • Keep copies of all letters, evaluations and recommendations.
  • Be an informed advocate for your child.

Things to Keep in Mind for Children Who Have Been Adopted or are in Foster Care

  • If your child has recently joined your family (eg. adoption or foster care), allow time for your child to adjust to his or her new home.
  • If your child has a known history of difficulties, evaluations and interventions should be arranged as quickly as possible so that recommendations can be started soon after your child has become comfortable in his or her new home.
  • For children with significant issues who are receiving ongoing interventions, it may be important to continue these therapies during the adjustment period.
  • For young children who come from situations involving neglect (e.g., orphanages), rapid gains are seen in the period shortly after arrival. It is important to continue to monitor the rate of progress.
  • Some children may initially have no difficulties, but problems may emerge as a child gets older and the demands increase.
  • If your child’s history has risk factors for developmental issues, have a low threshold for pursuing an evaluation.

National Resources 
(many with local contacts or state specific information)

Learning Disabilities Association of America

National Center for Learning Disabilities

Children with Attention Deficit Disorder

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

Council for Exceptional Children
800-CEC-SPED (educational and developmental resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics)

Legislation to Remember

  • Education for All Handicapped Act (PL 94-142, 1975)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA: PL 99-457, 1986; 105-17, 1997)
  • Section 504 – Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (PL 93-112)
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