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Whether you’ve decided to have your child tested to see if he is eligible for gifted programming or to determine whether he has a learning disability, selecting a clinician to complete the evaluation can seem daunting. One of the most common questions that arises during the search for a clinician is whether to have testing completed by a school psychologist provided by the public school system for free or by a private psychologist for a fee. Although school psychologists and private psychologists typically utilize the same basic testing format, there are some advantages to choosing a private psychologist.
To begin, private psychologists typically provide a more thorough and individualized testing experience for your child. In addition to meeting with your child, they also often consult with you and other caregivers, as well as her teachers to form a more substantive interpretation of her performance. They use this information to build a testing battery that will yield the most relevant data to answer the referral question(s) at hand, as well as to identify various factors that may be influencing your child’s academic progress. This battery may include specific personality and executive functioning assessments, in addition to the standard format. School psychologists provided by the school, on the other hand, are often limited by time and resources, may not have access to as large an inventory of tests as some private psychologists, and are typically not legally permitted to make clinical diagnoses that may be influencing your child’s performance (e.g., ADHD, clinical anxiety, or depression, etc.).
Another advantage of utilizing private psychologists is that are often are available to complete evaluations in relatively short periods of time. There is usually a significant wait to be tested by school psychologists. Moreover, if you are interested in gifted testing for your child, he must first complete a screening to even be deemed eligible for a psychological evaluation. Private psychologists, in contrast, do not typically require a preliminary screening before testing and can usually schedule your child pretty quickly.
Regardless of why you are choosing to have your child evaluated, hiring a private psychologist significantly increases the odds that your child will receive the most complete and comprehensive assessment possible. Although you may incur some expense, the benefit of gaining insight into your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses, and using that insight to shape her curriculum to maximize her potential is invaluable.
Contributed by Dr. Lauren K. Mason, a licensed psychologist and founding director of SpAcuity, a psychological testing center located in Naples. For more information, go to www.spacuity.net.