Assessment for Learning Disabilities
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Our teen, attending public high school, is intelligent (reads voraciously,
writes well) but has struggled academically for the past two years. I think
our teen comes off as lazy and disorganized to teachers but we are feeling
that the problem is at a deeper level. Our question is where and how should we
get an evaluation? We went to our family physician but the evaluation we
received was geared towards emotional health, not a learning assessment.
Should insurance cover a learning assessment? We are low income and do not
have a lot of money for testing but feel we need to take action now to help
our teen -- poor grades and a level of disorganization that seem to be
increasing dramatically a major concern to us.
If your child attends a public school, you should go directly to your student's
counselor and ask for your child to be assessed. They call it a Section 504 (you
can read about it by going to
and it helps determine what sort of learning differences and challenges your
child may have. Good luck!
I suggest you have the high school test your son for an ''IEP''. The test(s) are
free to you and are thorough in looking for learning strengths and weaknesses.
Based on the test(s) outcome, the school may be able to help your son learn to
mitigate his weaknesses and may also provide special accomidations for his needs.
To make this happen, send a registered letter to the High School Principal
requesting your son be tested for an IEP. The registered letter is very
After the test(s) are performed the school will call you and your son in to
discuss the results. I suggest having 2 adults in the room to capture all the
information being discussed.
The school district is obligated by law to assess students free of charge in all
areas of concern for which they are suspected of having a disability. You should
write a letter to the District's Director of Special Education explaining all of
your concerns and requesting an assessment. Best bet is to fax and keep delivery
confirmation or hand deliver and get date stamped copy. School district has 15
days from your letter to provide you with an assessment plan or a letter called
''Prior Written Notice'' explaining why they are refusing your request including
stating all evidence that they rely on indicating your child does not have a
disability. You can call Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) in
Berkeley for further information and help, free of charge. Call early because it
can take time to get a call back. When you call ask for a sample letter or get
it from the DREDF website, and send your letter as soon as possible, even if you
have to wait to talk to someone at DREDF. Also DREDF has free trainings on
rights of students with disabilities the second Monday of every month 6-8:30 -
call for info and to register. DREDF's phone number: (510) 644-2555 and
. . .
The Ann Martin center in Oakland does this. Insurance doesn't usually pay, but
call them. They are very helpful and probably have a sliding scale.
have my own learning differences
I am not an expert in this area, but I know school psychologist can provide
certain tests for free, especially if you want to apply for IEP for him. Some
insurance may cover certain tests too. In addition, you may do research online or
borrow books from library to understand your son's situation - I feel parents
sometimes diagnose child better than some tests.
My son has truly hit a wall this year. He's bright and has good
friends, but he has essentially given up on academics. We've had him
tested which confirmed an earlier diagnosis of a mild learning
disability called slow processing speed, but more worrisome is the
diagnosis of depression.
We're not sure what's behind it and really need for him to talk with
someone who is great with teens, super smart, and on our
BlueCross/Blue Shield insurance plan.
It took three psychologists who found ''some concerns'', then ''mild
learning disabilities'' then, ''an IQ that puts him in the upper 2%
of the population and a processing speed that puts him in the lower
15%'' before we were able to resolve our son's problem, which we did
with the help of Dr. Sandra Chaio in Berkeley, 510-763-1200. It was
her testing that identified the issues and subsequent medication
that seems to have resolved them. Our son went from B's and C's in
the 8th Grade to A's and B's by the end of the year. He went on to
BHS and is now happily ensconsed at UCSB.
My almost seven year old son goes to public school here in
Moraga. The schools are very good in the sense that they
have lots of resources but I'm quite unhappy about the
pressure kids have to excel. Of course I want my son to
do as well as possible, but I also want him to be an
emotionally healthy child. My neighbor takes her six
year old boy to five extracurricular classes! Anyway,
this is the issue: my son is very, very bright. I know -
all parents think that; but it is true. He meets all the
benchmarks at school; he just takes FOREVER to finish his
school work bc. he gets bored doing written work. The
school has pressured us to have him tested. We have
refused. Many people have told us how lucky we are that
the school provides that service w/o us having to push for
it. However, at this point we want to give him time to
mature. Don't get me wrong: it's not that we are in some
kind of denial; it's just that we don't want to
pathologize him. If he needs extra help: sitting close to
the teacher, whatever it is - we want that for him. We
just don't want to put a label to whatever his needs might
be (assuming he doesn't level up in a couple of years).
So, we are happy with that decision. BUT - some people
told us that because of the pressure there is here to
succeed, we want to give him all the possible advantages
he can have so that his self esteem will not suffer. I
was prompted to write this post when earlier today he said
he had asked God to change his brain so that he can do
work faster. Just writing this makes me want to cry. He
is super smart and learns more than expected; I just wish
there were not so much pressure! What do you think we
should do? Should we have him tested now? Should we wait
a couple of years? Are we going to hurt him socially
otherwise? I'm so confused!
I think you should agree to do the testing recommended by
the school. It sounds as though your son is struggling to
keep up in class. This definitely does not mean he is not
bright, but it MAY mean that he would benefit from some
support directed to issues that can be identified through
testing. A couple of years ago, on our daughter's third-
grade teacher's recommendation, we agreed to have the
school set her up for an evaluation with an educational
therapist. One of the teacher's primary concerns was that
our daughter was having to work much harder than the
teacher thought she should to complete work in class, and
homework was also taking her much longer than expected.
Our daughter also told us, ''I'm the slowest one in the
class'' and she felt bad about that. She had always loved
school but that enthusiasm was flagging. The testing
identified a ''phonologically-based learning disability''
(dyslexia although it seems the professionals don't like
that term). The school put us in touch with a wonderful
educational therapist who sees our daughter twice a week.
The ET, the teacher, and the school learning specialist all
work together with us as a team to make sure that our
daughter has the support she needs to keep up and keep
loving school. (This is private school but I think what we
have is basically the equivalent of an IEP in public
school.) She is a bright kid, scored in the 95+ percentile
on standardized tests last year, but she needs some support
to help her develop strategies for approaching some types
of academic work. It has helped her to know that it's not
that she's not smart, it's just that her brain works a
One more thing -- if you feel like your school is a place
where your son would be ''pathologized'' if he underwent
testing or if the testing showed a learning difference, you
might consider looking at other schools. At our school,
one of the recommendations was that one of our daughter's
twice-weekly sessions with her ET take place at the school,
during school hours. This gives the ET and the teacher a
chance to interact informally and makes the therapy
sessions a part of the regular school week. A number of
kids at the school have these meetings with tutors so it's
parent of bright kid with slightly different brain
It's awesome that you are conscious of the pressure kids
can be subjected to and how it is much more important to
raise an emotionally healthy child. However, if something
is going on with him, the earlier you catch it the better.
If you have him tested and nothing is wrong, no harm done
and I bet it would relieve a great deal of stress. Testing
is supposed to be priviledged and should not lead to a
label, but if you're really worried about him being labeled
at school can you have him evaluated outside of school,
such as through your medical insurance?
If your school is recommending testing, you should do it,
it will only get worse as the schoolwork gets more
difficult. We have a similar situation with a bright child
who has difficulty with writing assignments. By 4th grade
it was impossible for her to finish an assignment on her
own when her peers were doing just fine. Once the testing
is completed, hopefully you and the school will have a
better idea how to help your son specifically.
Hi. Having your son tested does not mean he is going to be
labled. It is going to be a tool to help you help him. I
am married to a neuropsychologist and she strives to give
the family what they need so it is a win-win. My only
concern is with school testing is that it is often done by
someone who does not have the qualifications nor expertise
needesd to correctly identify your sons strenghts and
weakness. Maybe you want to ask more questions. What does
the school want to answer? What type of tests are going to
be given? Call around if need be and pick some brains and
then decide if you should have your son tested.
The short answer is yes -- your son is aware that his
learning style is different, and is asking you why. If he
gets help, he'll be able to put this in perspective.
The long answer is -- it is hard to see your child with a
possible learning difference, and it will be a challenge to
you as a parent to continue to both appreciate your son's
gifts, and to make sure he has the resources he needs to
If you do choose to get your son tested, I recommend going
to Summit Center in Walnut Creek - they specialize in
smart/gifted kids, especially those with learning or social
I understand your confusion. Every parent wants the best
for his/her child and sometimes it is difficult to find
exactly the best solution especially when there is so much
advice both pro and con on every issue. Writing combines
so many elements: including fine motor skills, memory,
attention, thinking skills, language, sequencing, and
visual-satial abilities. You are fortunate to have a
bright son, but there could be an issue with one of the
above areas, and it would be best to find out which one so
it can be addressed. I would highly recommend you read Dr.
Mel Levine's book: Keeping A Head in School. Dr. Levine is
a pediatrician who specializes in children who have
challenges with learning; his goal is to help children
understand their own type of mind and to work with its
strengths and weaknesses. He has a section in the above
book that discusses writing. He has a number of books;
another helful one would be All Kinds of Minds in which he
talks about the various kinds of minds people/children
have. It would be helpful to read parts of this to your
son so he can understand we all have different kinds of
minds. Perhaps after you read these books, you will have
more clarity and less confusion about what to do for your
I have been a Montessori teacher, a public school
elementary teacher as well as a special education teacher
for thirty years and now tutor privately.
Absolutely...don't hesitate to get him tested. It won't be
patholigizing him whatever the results because the parents
always have a say in what they think is best for their child
no matter what the diagnosis. I found it very helpful when I
had my son tested as it brought us to a place where we could
help him for who he was with and without his diagnosis. We
are always learning about him as a whole person and having
him tested just allowed us to be able to define some
parameters and he is on a better path now than he was prior.
It may seem harsh to label any child who is so bright and
capable but the sooner you find out what is going on, if
anything is going on, the better it is for your son. If he
is diagnosed with something, there are many routes you can
take including second and third opinions. There are options
for private help if you are concerned about a stigma. And
there are laws protecting confidentiality. I know of some
families who have received private diagnoses and did not
want the school to test nor know due to their concerns about
stigmatization and such. Also, I'm not sure exactly why your
school is asking that you have him tested but my son was
stigmatized before he was tested as his preschool teachers
thought he was jsut spoiled and willfully oppositional.
After the testing, they changed their pitch. Whatever you
decide, good luck!
Just a bit more backup on getting a child tested. My 3rd grade son was
tested in 1st grade, in an Oakland public school, and has an IEP. This has
been an excellent decision for us. Several things I thought you should know.
1) My son has no difficulty reading, nor is he in any way ''slow.'' His reading
and math skills are fine, but he has had terrible difficulty either writing (the
fine motor part of writing), or doing things that are timed (he works slowly).
The IEP is designed to deal specifically with these issues. That is the beauty
of an IEP -- it is to help your child with their difficulties, not to label them.
2) My son gets a lot of help, no charge to us, that he would not otherwise get.
He has gone to work with a school-based OT on his handwriting for several
years now, and she has provided us with exercises to do at home. It has
really helped. He also is allowed to go to the resource room for help when
there is a lot of writing involved in an assignment. It's quiet there (no
distractions), the resource teacher can provide him with a lot of one-on-one
help, and will even write some things down for him if it is appropriate. He is
provided with additional time to do some kinds of assignments, to avoid
frustration. He also gets support with the state tests.
3) Teachers, in my experience, respond well to an IEP. They have information
that they can use, in consultation with us parents, to help our child
specifically. They know they have backup (i.e. the school psychologist, the
resource teacher) and information.
The best thing about this is that lots of kids leave the classroom and come
back for lots of reasons. My son is very sensitive, and he's never mentioned
anyone teasing him at all. He says he likes to go and work in the resource
room, and he likes the teachers and specialists. Absolutely no stigma.
I am looking for a doctor or organization that can not only
test for educational/learning disabilities but also can
make non-medication type recommendations that would help us
approach her teachers with a plan. My teenager, who had
good grades in all subjects in elementary school and middle
school, appears to be struggling in some subjects in high
school, even though motivated. I have long suspected a
learning disability mixed with slight ADD. I would like to
have my teenager tested privately or through Kaiser but
have not a clue where to begin. Also, I am curious about
how much money I should be willing to spend to complete
My 18 yr. old son was diagnosed with a learning disability at age 4. We've
spent the last 8 months dealing with the requirements to have this properly
documented to allow him the additional time that he's entitled to on semester
exams in high school and the College Board exams (SAT, AP Exams, etc.). You
will need to have a psycho-educational evaluation done by a psychologist,
then have the results sent to your child's school, and then have the school
generate paperwork/forms to submit to the College Board when it's time for
the SATs. Don't wait. The process takes time (months) but is well worth it. (My
son's SAT scores increased by 240 points when he took the exams with
additional time vs. his first scores with no extended time). I spoke with many
psychologists and the process is expensive - ranges from $1,200 to $4,000+
depending on who conducts the testing. The College Board requires specific
tests to be administered, so all the docs must do the same testing despite
the huge difference in range of cost. We decided on Dr. Joan Wenters in
Albany 510.816.0772 who charged half the cost of some of the others. She
is awesome - very knowledgeable about the process and requirements. We've
also come to know Dr. Maria Antoniadis in Berkeley (510) 649-3399, but not
sure if she does the testing. She's an awesome therapist though - very
experienced with ADD teens. My experience has been that health insurance
will not cover the testing because it's not medically necessary, but again, it's
one of the best investments you can make to help your child succeed. For
medication, we highly recommend Henri Massie, MD in Berkeley 510.841.8107.
He works with a lot of teens. You can get a lot of info on the College Board Web site:
www.collegeboard.com (look for students with disabilities link). If your child will eventually be
college-bound, it's never too soon to start looking into this. I hope this info is helpful to you.
Psychologist Andrew Harlem does assessments for learning
disabilities as well as other psychological issues. He is
friendly and professional and has offices in Rockridge and
Marin. His number is 510-435-5273. He (or any evaluator)
would make recommendations and help you find the
appropriate resources based on the assessment.
I have similar issues with my 17 yo son, who is a senior.
I tried the Kaiser route for ADD assessment as a starting
point. They essentially dismissed him because he does OK
in school. It seems that their goal is to not expend
resources, if it can be avoided, rather than helping him.
When I expressed my concern about his inability to focus
and concentrate for longer a few minutes, the therapist
shrugged it off with comments to my son '' You eventually
get your work done, right?'', ''You get decent grades,
right?'' and to me ''He'll mature''. I believe that his name
was Gerald Whitmore, but I think it is the Kaiser approach
not just the therapist.
We are also unsure of how to help our son. He is about to
switch out of 2 honors classes that he is failing,
although he has always managed to get by before. But as
the classes get tougher, his limited concentration
prevents him from absorbing the concepts. He wants to
figure it out now that college, hopefully, is around the
corner. I intend to ask our school district for testing
(OUSD) but I don't know what to ask for. I expect it is
the same approach, only give us the minimum as he will be
out of the system soon. I will also try private, but don't
know any resources. I want strategies not drugs. I think
that the testing is one thing but the evaluation and
working with kid is harder to find the right person(s). I
have had recommendations for Brad Berman from a friend but
he has a year wait. Any suggestions for us are appreciated
Dr. Carole King (510-465-7844), the educational psychologist
described in the recommendations section of BPN, tested my
daughter, who is now 13 and preparing to enter high school.
We agree with the parent who made the original
recommendation. That person said that Dr. King gained the
trust with and cooperation of our daughter. She tested in
the major areas that affect learning. She explained the
results in a helpful way to us and separately to our
daughter, and she met with the teacher. We all gained a good
understanding of our daughter's situation as a result of the
testing. Dr. King found a subtle reading/learning delay that
was discouraging our daughter in school and leading her to
avoid difficult reading assignments. She recommended
interventions that helped our daughter catch up, so that now
she is an excellent reader with top grades and lot of
academic confidence, very ready for high school. She
received the right help at the right time.
The process of obtaining a comprehensive diagnosis can be a
confusing process, but it is so important to know the real
cause of your child's difficulties in school if you are to
avoid the secondary effects of undiagnosed AD/HD and LD.
It's a good idea to start with your child's pediatrician, to
cover the health history and rule out physical causes. S/he
can give you the latest information about how they are
conducting these diagnoses at Kaiser.
What I know about Kaiser is that they have a protocol for
AD/HD diagnosis that takes a little longer than most private
physicians, but it includes some educational elements that
can be helpful. I know that they have psychologists who can
do LD testing but I am not familiar with the process they
use to discriminate who does and does not get tested. A
private psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician may be
able to help you more expediently. Their medical diagnosis
will rule out other possible causes of AD/HD. Some
developmental pediatricians include an educational assessment.
You can request that your school district test your child
for learning disabilities. To find out more about this you
can visit www.schwablearning.org and chadd.org. Educational
psychologists do the testing for schools, and they are
qualified to decide if AD/HD is part of the picture.
Private testing can be quicker. Prices vary depending on
the qualifications of the examiner and the extent of
testing. Psychologists are more expensive but they can
diagnose AD/HD, though they can't prescribe meds.
Educational therapists test for LD, can guide you through
the diagnostic process and will be available for on-going
academic support. Their fees are lower, though you would
still need someone licensed to make the AD/HD diagnosis.
Hope this helps. The National Resource Center on AD/HD, a
joint program of the CDC and CHADD, is a great resource:
I highly recommend Dr. Jack Davis and he can be reached at
510 693 8439. He did a great job for our family! The cost
of a battery ranges dependent on the question you want to
answer but can get up $4,000.
There are a number of people in the Bay Area who are ready
and willing to help you and your high school student. In my
experience working at a high school, I find that learning
disabilities and especially AD/HD (Inattentive type) often
do not get diagnosed until Sophomore year when the student
can “hit the wall” in terms of academic success. These
students struggle valiantly until then or get by on a
combination of smarts and charisma, but they start fading as
the work gets more difficult or they come up against
subjects that really push on their current limitations
(e.g., around math or foreign language learning that require
certain kinds of symbolization or manipulation of symbols
and new kinds of cognitive processing). I’ll pass on the
list of folks that I’ve worked with and recommend below.
Please hang in there and try to not get too discouraged. If
you’re looking at a private evaluation, it can take a while
to get an appointment (up to six months in some cases), so
you may have to call around to see who is available. The
cost can be between $1500 and $3000 depending on the extent
of the evaluation. I know this is a lot of money, but I
think it is really worth it. In many cases the
neuropsychological testing allows your child to understand
better how they learn and hopefully (if an LD or AD/HD is
found) stop feeling lazy or blaming themselves for their
academic difficulties. If you’re in a public high school,
then the school district in which you reside is required by
law to provide testing and evaluation for learning
disabilities at no cost to your family. However, this can
take a while, too. You have rights pertaining to access to
services under the IDEA (Federal law) and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Code of the State of California. You could
either go the private route and contact one of the folks
listed below or go the public route, with some help and
support. The Learning Disabilities Association of California
is one very good resource (www.ldaca.org) as is the Ability
Resource Center in Lafayette
(www.abilityresourcecenter.com). For private testing:
Molly Baron, M.A.
McClure, Mallory and Baron, 200 Lombard Street, SF, CA 94111
Educational Consulting, Assessment, Crisis Intervention with
Teens (testing done by Allison Wenglin or Jane McClure)
Carina Grandison, Ph.D.
(510) 763-9795; 286 Santa Clara Avenue, Oakland, 94610
Anne Walter, Psy.D.
Bodin Associates, 3685 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA 94549
Educational Consulting, Assessment, Crisis Intervention with
Cynthia Petersen, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychology Group, 510 843-2005; 2414 Ashby
Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
Neuropsychological / Educational Testing
Caroline Johnson, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychology Group, 510 843-2005; 2414 Ashby
Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
Neuropsychological / Educational Testing
Jack Fahy, Ph.D.
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, 2001 Dwight Way, Berkeley,
CA 94704 204-4444;
Neuropsychological / Educational Testing
Ability Resource Center 1415 Oakland Blvd., Suite 100,
Walnut Creek, CA 94596 (925) 695-0409 or (510) 595-5548
(Glenn Gelfenbein, LMFT) Educational Consulting, Groups,
Individual/Family Therapy, LD Support
Tina Guterman, Ph.D. (415) 440-4713;
Neuropsychological/Educational Testing; tguterman at aol.com
Michael Simon, MFT, Practical Help for Parents
I've been through the whole assessment process on both
sides (teenager in high school with LD) and as an
optometrist specializing in visual perceptual testing and
remediation. I've been through Kaiser and the private
route also. It is very helpful to talk to someone who has
been through the whole process since there is a learning
curve and you don't have much time left before college to
figure it all out. That said, it probably would be easier
to talk over the phone, so if you would like to email me
I'd be happy to help.
Looking for updated info on testing 6 YO boy for a learning
disability. I have checked older posts and there is nothing
listed past 2001. The issue seems to be most prevalent with
learning to read. Maybe some attention issues as well. There
are no discipline/hyperacticvity issues. It just seems that
there are some blocks. I just don't know how to describe it
and both his K and 1st grade teachers can't pinpoint it either.
We are pursuing things through our school district, but I think
I want a second opinion.
I have heard that I should work through Children's. Can
someone tell me what kind of a specialist I am looking for,
and, if you have a name, that would be great too.
PS - He already had a binocular vision test.
Your vigilance is commendable. We now know that early
identification and intervention can prevent much hardship.
If you want to get feedback from an excellent practitioner with
a stellar educational and psychological view, contact Dr. Ann
Gordon. 510 873-0801. She could provide you with excellent
Best of luck
As a special educator whose experience is in teaching students
with learning disabilities, I can tell you that your son's school
psychologist and a special education teacher should be able to
run a battery of tests that will indicate if there is a
discrepancy between your son's cognitive ability and his academic
Sometimes testing by other professionals is needed
as well to pinpoint the exact cause of the learning disability.
If you are concerned that your son's school is not capable of
identifying his learning style and learning needs, then there are
independent psychologists and educational consultants you can
hire. Have you heard of the Learning Disabilities Association?
There is an East Bay chapter. Through them, you could probably
find independent professionals to assess your child. Look them up
on the Internet; they can provide a lot of resources.
is a website of an educational consulting service, that a former
professor of mine started, www.kidsfirstconsulting.com.
Learning disabilities often have similar
symptoms as ADD/ADHD. I would encourage you to seek out all forms
of accommadations/modifications within his regular classroom
setting and to consider that extra support to help him learn to
read may be necessary. He may need specialized services within
his school setting or extra tutoring.
There are many private
organizations who specialize in teaching reading to individuals
with learning disabilities. 6 is a critical age to learn reading;
you are doing the right thing by intervening now! Phonics-based,
highly-structured, multi-modality reading programs work best!
Try Oakland Children's Hospital Youth Development Center.
Here is our goal: we want to to our best to help our 8 year old
daughter and we would like your advice. Also please recommend
professionals we can contact and/or books.
Nothing major is wrong with our child. However, she has some
weaknesses that we would like to address.
She is 8 year old who has always been a little on the imature
side: she does not pay attention, loses things, does not take
responsibility for her things, homework, is disorganized in any
action she takes etc. She doesn't really care about things.
Another issue: in school, she does not do well when she needs to
answer in class to a question. She does good work when she can
work independently and concentrate on her own. Like in a written
Issue #3: she could be very superficial. When you explain
something to her she understands and if you check she will give
you the correct answers. After a few days let's say she might not
remember that you ever explained those things to her. Actually,
probing deeper you might find out that she does not know things
that she had been using successfully before in her thinking. But
then some days later might just give you the correct answers
again to the very things that she had difficulty with. Is she not
paying attention, is her mind totally messed up, it is very hard
Sorry if my explanations were somewhat complicated. Is a child
psychologist necessary to find out really what is going on? We
would like to take the best path to help her. Our oldest child is
quite the opposite, we as children were very responsible as well.
So our youngest one puzzles us completely.
Thank you so much for your input.
worried but ready to help parents
It really sounds to me like your daughter could possibly have ADD. My son was diagnosed with it in the 3rd grade, and i recognize many of the behaviors you mentioned. He was and still is very disorganized, forgetful, and sometimes just doesn't pay attention. I used to get very frustrated after telling him over and over to do something and he would just forget.
He is now 12 and we are working with a tutor for organizational skills, and I am trying to be very diligent about following through with him to go over things he needs to stay on top of, such as homework.
Our pediatrician referred us to a pediatric psychotherapy neurologist who did the assessment. One book that I have also found very help is titled ''Driven to Distraction.'' Someone also recommended some kids books that address having ADD which i cannot remember the title right now... something like joey pugsy (??) ate the key. there is also a website you can look at. www.allkindsofminds.com.
more than likely your daughter is not intentially creating these problems, but she is just wired a bit differently which is bringing out these situations. most kids with these characteristics and with adhd are very bright and able kids.
please feel free to email me if you have more questions, and good luck.
If you decide you want/need a psychoeducational assessment, you can get one at a low/sliding scale fee at UCB Psych Dept's Psychology Clinic (642-2055). PhD students conduct them but are supervised (very closely) by the top assessment specialists in town who would charge thousands for their work.
I wouldn't think of discouraging you from getting a professional assessment for your child. But I want to give you a little perspective. I could've written your post two years ago when my daughter was 8. Lack of focus, disorganization, homework books left at school, new academic information that didn't seem to ''stick'' a few days later...she grew out of most of it.
She is now 10 1/2 years old and in 5th grade. She now does her homework without my involvement; completely manages her clothes, bed, grooming, breakfast in the morning, has nice friends; is happy. We believe she's always been ''young for her age'' and always will be. But she's also creative, energetic, impulsively generous, funny, a joy.
By the way, our other daughter, who is 8, is extremely organized, ahead of deadlines, tough on herself, focused, directed, and competitive. We used to worry that she's not loose and creative and free!!!
So, nature wins out over nurture every time. Two daughters from one set of parents. We've decided to enjoy the ride and celebrate the differences!
- Got That One, Too
Hi, I don't think you need a child psychologist in the sense that you think she might have emotional problems. Who I think you need is to see a pediatric neuro-psychologist for an assessment. One of her issues seems to be a deficit called 'executive functioning' which is the part of the brain which plans and organizes. I went to a whole conference on this topic last year. In school she may be a visual learner, not an auditory learner. She may need extra time for processing information and formulating her answer. Issue #3 could be working memory or part of the executive functioning, which is the inability to see things globally, to apply understanding to many areas. Since she is functioning so well that these have only become issues now, you are lucky, but you need the specific diagnoses so you can start helping her. The good news is that it will take it totally out of the realm of behavior issues and you get to stop saying ''why can't you...''
and puts it into the learning differences/brain differences category. Then you start thinking ''how can I help her...'' It is not her fault and she is not doing it willfully. BUT it is vital that you have this done asap, because children do develop coping/avoidance behaviors when they are not getting what they need (eg being in a classroom where they are not successful) and those habits are hard to break. Plus, her confidence is probably taking a beating and it is vital she experience success. Kids who don't experience success don't take risks, and if you don't take risks you can't learn.
May I highly recommend Dr. Carina Grandison in Berkeley for your assessment? 2340 Ward St., Berkeley. Phone is 510-763- 9795. She is spectacular. At age 4 she assessed our son. Her diagnosis and predictions have been EXACTLY on the mark (he is now 8). She has children and best of all she is warm and compassionate and loves kids. She also works at Children's Hospital and is highly respected. The assessment is going to run you at least $3,000 but my advice is to just do it, even if you have to borrow the money. Good luck and if you need anything else you can email me.
She is an 8 year old! Is your child's teacher worried about her or does he or she think that she is in the normal range of maturity and behavior? If your teacher does think there may be a psychological problem or learning disability there should be assessment available at school. From what you wrote, however, I think that she just has a different personality than you. Please don't make her feel like that is something that is ''wrong with her''.
Sounds like an assessment is in order: Dr. Josephine Lindt -In Albany might be a good place to start (510 525-2670). She's Developmental Pediatrician who has helped our son with his ADD and depression. She could also help you decide if therapy would be helpful and/or full-scale neuro/psych testing is needed.
The kind of problems you describe could be some memory issues or some distractibility getting in the way of learning or completely within the normal range.
The best advice I can give is to ask for a meeting with your child's teacher. That person can tell you whether they think your child needs an assessment. If the teacher thinks your child may have some learning differences, he or she might be hesitant to speak up. Some parents get very defensive when they hear their child isn't perfect. Also, in my humble opinion, some of the ''progressive'' private schools are pretty inept when it comes to dealing with learning disabilities and early intervention is key.
The next step depends on whether your child attends a public or private school:
In our district to get diagnosed with a learning disability, your child's General Cognitive Ability (smarts) must be higher than their academic performance (how they perform on assessments) thus indicating that something is getting in the way of their ability to function at the level they should be. If the assessment indicates your child has a learning disability, you will be offered services. My son gets a 40-minute small group ''pullout''
once a day in the ''Resource Room'' with a qualified Specialist who tutors him in reading. She has an MA in Special Education and he loves working with her. He was diagnosed at 8-years-old with a visual memory problem that make reading difficult. We also supplement what the school offers by hiring a private educational therapist to work with him during the summer. It's expensive and time consuming but the payoff has been a bright, enthusiastic third grader who seems to enjoy school and is passionate about math and science.
If your child is in a private school, you can request an assessment through the local public school district office or do a private assessment. I'm sure you will find some recommendations in the archive. The kind of educational therapy your child needs will depend on what the assessment indicates.
Try not to worry. It may turn out to be nothing. Fortunately, there are lots of resources in the Bay Area for children who need extra help and support.
W. County public school parent
Your daughter sounds like she has some very similar issues to our 8 year old who has been diagnosed with Sensory Integration Issues. Forgetting things, loosing things, seeminly not hearing, and even answering questions that she has not really heard are very common experiences for her/us. She has great difficulty organizing things, keeping track of things, a lot of executive function issues. She was evaluated by an occupational therapist Susan Campadonico at Alta Bates who has been very helpful. You might want to pick up the book ''Your Out of Sync Child'' to see if she fits the description of SID issues. I'd be happy to answer further questions, I know how frustrating it can be, but the O.T. has been very helpful for us and Susan C. is fantastic. Good luck.
We have been advised to get an assessment for our 3rd grader who
may have a learning disability (with writing issues and possibly
math) and may be borderline ADD (distraction, focus issues). He
is also acting out at home which we think is related. We are
trying to figure out who/where is the best place to do this (we
do not want to wait for the school district to do it). The
information in the archives is somewhat limited and on the older
side. I would really appreciate any recommendations and feedback
about good people, places to go where there are not long waiting
lists (like for Brad Berman), you can get in relatively quickly,
and we could get the learning disability/ADD evaluation both
done. Is there an advantage/disadvantage of a behavioral
pediatrician over a neuropsychologist? Or any disadvantages of
going to a place like Ann Martin? Any and all
recommendations/feedback is greatly appreciated.
The best way to sort this out is to have neuropsychometric
testing. Among the best Neuropsychcologists in the area are
Cynthia Peterson, Ph.D. and Chi Johnson, Ph.D. phone # 510 843-
2005. They are very thorough and will follow-up with all your
questions. They have been extremely helpful with a number of
children and adolescents that I work with.
We are going to have our 12-year-old assessed for learning
differences.This will be a full neurodevelopmental/psychological
evaluation. Does anyone have experience with either Jack Davis
(former director of Raskob Day School), or Vincent
Nunno,neuropsychologist? (Website has been checked.) Given the
nature of the assessment, we feel it's important that the
assessor take the time to talk and connect with our child and not
simply administer a bunch of tests and then hand over a list of
I am a special education advocate, and a volunteer with the
East Bay Learning Disabilities Association. I do not have
personal experience with Dr. Jack Davis, but he is well known
as an expert in learning disabilities. If you can get in to
see him, I'm sure the evaluation would be well done. BTW, I
haven't heard anything, positive or negative, about
his ''bedside manner'' so to speak, just that he is one of the
leading authorities on LD in the Bay Area.
That said, have you considered requesting an assessment from
your child's school district? If you put it in writing, they
have 15 days to provide you with an assessment plan for your
review, approval and consent. After you sign that (you have 15
days to do so), they have 50 days to complete the assessment &
hold an IEP meeting (that's calendar days, not including school
vacation in excess of 5 days). If you feel that the assessment
performed by the district is innaccurate or incomplete, or that
it wrongly classifies your child, you may be entitled to seek
an independent evaluation at public expense.
Good luck, and feel free to email me if you have any
My son has been evaluated for learning disabilities by both Bea
McKenzie at A Learning Place in Montclair (affiliated with Ann
Martin Children's Center) and later at Raskob when Jack Davis was
still director. Jack did not do any of the evaluating himself; my
son was tested by two different women, one of whom was a graduate
student who definitely did not make a good connection with my
son. Jack looks at the results and sits in with the actual
tester to talk to the parents about results. My experience with
Bea McKenzie was much better -- she took loads of time with both
my son and me. Don't know Nunno at all. Good luck!
The information about school district assessments given in
a previous response to this query is correct and important
for you to know. However, I see many disadvantages to
starting with a school district assessment. In practice,
many (or maybe most) school districts fail to comply with the
law. Unless your child is referred by a teacher or
administrator in the district or has an unmistakably severe
disability, you may have to wait many months for a response
and then more months for an assessment. This was
certainly our experience with Berkeley. You wanted
someone who would not just administer tests and then
hand over a bunch of scores. Our experience with school
district assessments is that two or more people
administered tests and then handed us separate reports at
the time of the meeting, with little synthesis or deep
understanding. Most of the assessors seemed to do a
decent job of connecting with the students at the time of
testing, but they don't necessarily ever see the child again.
They probably would not have administered several critical
tests, if we had not already given them the results of
previous independent testing. If you can pay for
independent testing, you will be on track to diagnose and
treat any learning differences much more quickly. If your
child is in the public schools or you expect him or her to be,
go ahead and start the process by submitting a request to
the district simultaneously.
special ed parent
Re: Dr. Davis/ testsing of learning diabilities: We recently
had our 9 yr. old son tested for LD by both a private clinical
psychologist and the Oakland Public School District. I must
say that the psycologist was very expensive and in the end
basically gave us lists of test scores and the
recommendation to see a long list of ''specialist''
psycologists, none of whom he could personally
recommend-- we were simply on our own there. Because I
wanted to know if my son qualified for special ed help from
the OUSD I also had them test him. What a difference! He
was tested by three specialists, all of whom made sure he
felt comfortable with them and the testing situation. Their
observations and reports were extremely insightful and
pointed out an auditory processing issue that we had
always suspected but the other psychologist had missed.
Their reports were very ''readable '' and included simple,
helpful suggestions for working with my son at home and in
the classroom. We all met together (including my son's
private school teacher) and went over their findings. They
made sure I understood what was in their reports.
In short, I got much more useful inofrmation from the public
school district than I did from the clinical psycologist .I have
shown both reports to tutors and others we are working
with. I think it can be difficult to get Oakland to agree to do
the testing, but they are REQUIRED to set up an
appointment with you within two weeks of recieving a written
request from you for testing. It is a good place to start.
Further testing can be helpful, if needed . Be prepared to do
a lot of research to find the right person to work with. Most
good psychologists are booked for months in advance.
I'd like to have my 6.5 year old daughter evaluated by a learning specialist. She's been "just
about" reading for almost 2 years, during which time she suffered from mercury exposure.
Can someone recommend a therapist to do this kind of academic evaluation?
Your best bet for learning disability testing is through your local public school district If
they find something they are actually required to remediate for you. If you decide to
have a private agency do the testing, and they recommend remediation, and you want
the district to provide it you will have to go through the testing again. That being said,
6.5 is not late for reading, really. Many kids don't develop fluency until mid-second
grade or seven.
Others on this list have suggested that you have your child tested by the public schools.
But if your child is young and not showing severe learning problems, it may take school
district officials some time before they feel that formal testing is warranted. Of course, if
there is a problem, the sooner you can address it the better. In our case, I'm ever so
that my husband and I didn't wait to have our son privately evaluated for potential
reading problems -- and at an early age. I highly recommend the Binocular Vision
Clinic at the UCB Optometry School as a place to do this (642-2020), if the professors at
the clinic think testing makes sense for your child.
When my son was 5 (he's just now turning 6), his wonderful, perceptive teacher at
Family Montessori School noticed that he was a little slow in picking up on letters and
numbers, and that he seemed discouraged by the phonics materials in the classroom.
Based on her hunch, we got him evaluated for "visual perception skills" at the UCB
clinic -- as I understand it, these are perceptual skills that are required in order to read
and when deficient, form the basis of the
various kinds of dyslexia and reading problems. With my son, the signs were very subtle
and he was too young to be reading, so I was skeptical that anything would come of the
testing. The testing cost only $250., for a very thorough evaluation over 6 weekly
sessions, and in my son's case, revealed several delays in his ability to process visual
information. His particular deficiencies tend to show up as reading comprehension
problems at a later age, but catching the problem so early has allowed us to intervene
before he's expected to read, hopefully saving him from some of
the struggle that dyslexic kids have in school and with their self esteem. If your child
does have a problem, the clinic offers a very helpful series of visual skills training
sessions and home exercises designed to help build up the particular skills that are
deficient. These exercises and clinic sessions are not only catered to your child's age, but
to the exact deficiencies that will interfere with reading. We were all utterly shocked by
the enormous progress that my son made soon after we started participating in the
clinic, and by his sudden enthusiasm for doing counting and reading "works" at school.
As I've worked with him, I've become more appreciative of what a challenge it is for kids
who lack these
these fundamental skills for reading, and how important it is to have a very fine-tuned
if you are a Kaiser member, is Dr. Joseph Rosenfeld of Oakland Kaiser
Pediatrics. He's been doing education assessments for learning
disabilities for a long time, and I have heard positive comments about
UC Berkeley Educational Therapy Clinic
UC Berkeley Extension has opened an educational therapy clinic this
spring to assess and evaluate such common learning disorders as
ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, and reading, writing and math problems. The clinic
is staffed by Extension's educational therapy program interns under
the supervision of professional educational therapists. Services are
offered to the community on a sliding scale. For more information see
the story at www.unex.berkeley.edu; to schedule assessments call
Dr. Rasjidah Franklin at (510) 643-6830. (Note: A feature story about
the new clinic also appeared in the April 11-17 edition of the
Best of luck -
Kap Stann, Director
Public Relations & Internal Communications
It has begun to occur to me that my 15 year old son's difficulties in math
may be related to a learning disability. Can anybody recommend a
psychologist in the Berkeley/Oakland area who can assess this situation
without our having to undertake an extensive and expensive barrage of tests?
I had my 15 year old tested for language related issues at the
Scottish Rite language center in Oakland. They are free and were very helpful. Their
test results were subsequently confirmed by others. I don't know if they
also do math testing, but , if not, they might be able to give a
recommendation or some good advice. I worked with someone named Bonnie
Barren who was very helpful. Good luck,
Suzanne (Sept 2001)
Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders
Scottish Rite Temple
1547 Lakeside Drive
Oakland, CA 94612-4525
Telephone: (510) 839-1513
Regarding the potential learning disability in the 15 year old. I had
exactly the same feeling last year and a number of people told me that
there is no substitute for the testing. I found out that the public
school system is required to provide testing if the parent asks for it
in writing. I submitted my request and the secretary was very prompt
about getting the forms back to me which stated that the school is
required to set a date for testing within 60 days. She said they are
running about 30 days behind. I decided that I could not wait that
long and went to a private educational psychologist named Carole King
in Piedmont. She was really good with my child and
the testing was only 2 sessions of about an hour and a half each. My
son is not a good test taker, but she made him feel very much at ease
and was very honest and open about discussing the testing with him.
Then she produced a report of about 15 pages. A friend of mine who is
in the field reviewed the report and felt that she had covered all the
bases and used the best measurements. The best part was our
discussion with her afterwards. We spent about 2 hours going over the
report and she was very good at discussing every aspect of it with us.
In the end, the tests showed that he had no learning disability and
that he is in fact very bright on most of the measurements. But her
suggestions and advice on how to deal with our child who doesn't like
math were very helpful. Unfortunately, the price tag is steep.
Approximately $800, but it certainly has helped us deal with a
difficult situation. By the way, I did not cancel my application for
testing with Berkeley High and 9 months later I still have not heard
from them. (phone number for Carol King: 510-465-7844 updated 9/2006)
from a mom, a credentialed school psychologist and ABD in Ed. Psych at UCB:
If money is not an issue (your health insurance may cover this as well) a
truly excellent developmental pediatrician with a private practice in
Berkeley is Dr. Ann Parker (528-5580). I interned with her at UCSF.
You'll definitely be in the hands of a caring and extremely knowledgeable
professional with her. My recommendation would be to consult with her
first, get some perspective about how to proceed depending on the
particulars of your child, and then go from there. Don't hesitate to post
more questions, hope this is helpful. (11/98)
We had our daughter tested at age 7 by Dr Vincent Nunno, a
psychologist with a specialty in assessment. His office is on
Boulevard Way off Grand Ave in Piedmont. At the time, Kaiser used him
as a referral for ADD assessment before they developed their own
program. Check with your insurance carrier to see what services, if
any, they will pay for. You are also entitled to an assessment from
your local school district even if your child attends a private
school. It takes a long time to arrange and you have to keep pushing
for what you need. Since my daughter has ADD and learning
disabilities, we found it useful to use someone outside the "systems'
who could view the whole child since Kaiser' program addresses ADD but
not learning disabilities, and the school district addresses learning
disabilities but not ADD. Depending on what you find as a diagnosis,
you may want to follow up with an assessment by a pediatric
Re: Child Testing for Learning Disabilities: A psychologist I know refers
Dr. Tracy Artson in San Francisco (I believe she comes to the East Bay,
too): (415) 752-6374.
When I decided to have my son tested for learning disabilities, I started
by talking to his pediatrician, who referred us to a specialist in
pediatric behavioral development, Dr. Gary Landman. This is the procedure
required by our insurance plan, HealthNet. If you have confidence in your
child's doctor, it is probably best to at least start with his/her referral.
We visited Dr. Landman when my son was just 4, on a general recommendation
from preschool teachers that his development was uneven and he could use
some extra help. Dr. Landman was -- and I believe still is -- the only
doctor who is blessed by the ABMG Medical Group of Healthnet.
Before the visit, Dr. Landman sent an extensive questionnaire to us and to
the teachers (via us) about our son's behavior and abilities. At the visit,
he performed two types of tests: a fine-motor test of stacking 1-inch
cubes, and several cognitive/language dev. tests. These tests confirmed
what we and the teachers already know about my son's fine motor skills
(slow) and congnitive/language development (fast). (He did not test for
gross-motor development.) He told us that our son was too young to be
tested for ADHD, which I agreed with. He also told us that our son has a
"typical only-child personality."
Because we had no doubt that ADHD is not an issue, the end result was that
while we were assured at a certain level that our son is "just fine," we
also didn't learn anything new or anything that could help us to help him
catch up in his areas of slower development.
I've subsequently heard that Dr. Landman tends to hand out ADHD diagnoses
rather freely; but I would say that this is more of a rumor than any actual
knowledge on my part.
In the ensuing months, my son has become very frustrated about the ways
that he still lags behind his classmates. Therefore, I'm pursuing further
testing so that we can find ways to help him -- physical therapy,
"occupational" therapy (that means fine-motor for kids). etc. I wrote a
rather scathing letter to ABMG because they will not authorize a visit with
the Children's Hospital team; then I switched my son's coverage to the Hill
In sum, I didn't find Dr. Landman offensive or unhelpful, but I did feel
that he was looking for issues that are not our issues, and didn't seem
very attentive to the help we really do need. I think that the real fault
lies with ABMG for not allowing us a choice -- or more specifically, not
allowing us access to the broader facilities that Children's Hospital has
to offer. In other words, it all comes down to the insurance companies and
"managed care" -- AGAIN!!! (6/99)
If money is an issue, you should realize that your local school district
can test your child at no charge. Call your district office to learn how
to proceed. HOWEVER, this route may take quite a long time and may be
difficult depending on a number of factors, the quality of the assessment
may be dubious, and the extent of the recommendations may be limited... But
it may be worth checking out depending on your circumstances, and if you
feel your case is being handled properly.
This is for the parent who is looking for an educational specialist to
assess and possibly tutor her son, who she suspects has processing
problems: If it has been a number of years since you last had him
assessed, you can request an assessment from your local school
district, even if your son is presently attending a private school or
being homeschooled. All you need to do is write a letter to the
director of special education in your district, or the principal of
your neighborhood school, requesting an assessment for learning
disabilities. By federal law the assessment must be made and the
results reported to you within fifty calendar days of the school year,
unless you agree in writing to a delay. You may not have had in mind
an assessment by someone in the public schools, but it is a good place
to start and it's free. Your tax dollars at work!
Sue (Apr 2001)
A good place to start for testing is the public school system in your
district. Even if your child is in private school, they are required to
provide testing. They are also required to provide any recommended
services, although we found in our case that this would mean bringing the
child to the public school during school hours, so private tutoring might
be more reasonable. If you want to look at private testing, I took my son
to Robert Kaufman in Oakland (after we decided we needed more information
than the public school required). He did a good job of academic testing
and also of pinpointing some related neurological problems as well. You
might also check with your pediatrician if they think some neurological
problem may be involved. Some of the testing for those problems (ADHD and
the like, for example) are covered by health plans, even if the treatment
may not be. It's worth checking into the public school and health plan
options, as the cost of testing is not trivial.
I don't have a specific Dr. to recommend for testing, but I would like to
relate an experience which my sister had with her son.
She wanted to get testing for him, but her public school was dragging its
feet. So she spent a lot of money to have him tested at the West Coast
Childrens Center. The testing/analysis of results took several months, and
finally she received their recommendation that the child get special
services. Unfortunately, she learned at that time that public schools
will not accept outside evaluations, and so the child had to once again go
through testing at the public school and wait months for results. That
academic year passed with no special resource. Only this year is he
getting anything, and the help he is getting isn't sufficient to make up
for lost time. I guess I'm relating this to you to advise you to act
aggressively as an advocate for you child. The public schools can be
over-whelmed with children in need, and they therefore drag their feet
when it comes to testing. Parents have to push hard for the testing and
evaluation, and harder for the resource help. Good luck
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