Many parents contact AANE with questions they have about whether their child may have some form of neurological difference. Other parents call asking how to get a good evaluation because a teacher, early childhood center staff person or other professional has advised that they investigate why their child does certain behaviors. The general question is "What is a good evaluation for neurological differences and how do I get it?"
Many different professionals can diagnose Asperger Syndrome (or pervasive developmental disorder, non-verbal learning disabilities, high functioning autism and other names as well). Psychologists, pediatric neurologists, developmental pediatricians, psychiatrists and other professional diagnosticians can all diagnose Asperger Syndrome.
Here at AANE, parents generally report a preference for one of two different types of comprehensive evaluations to help their children. What parents find most helpful are those evaluations which are the most comprehensive, provide the greatest specificity about how your child learns and can capture the “unique needs” of your child best. Parents are looking for in depth reports that will help both them and the school know the best ways to teach this child. Generally a multidisciplinary team approach evaluation done at a medical or evaluation center, or a neuropsychological battery of tests, done by a neuropsychologist, provide the most in depth reports. This report then could be used by the parents to understand their child’s thinking and feeling and to help the parents and school create the most effective Individualized Educational Plan or other service package.
Where to begin? Evaluation often does involve some connections with the school system because Mass law favors the school to be part of the process if parents want to access services afterward from the school system. If the child is of school age, parents start by requesting that the school do an evaluation for determination of eligibility for special services. This would be in the form of a letter, sent to the school (and keep a copy in the personal educational file that you start). Sending this request starts the state’s evaluation process. It should result in the school sending you a list of tests which they and the parent check off (or write in) to test the child. Parents give their permission for testing to begin by filling out and returning that form. Schools do a variety of tests themselves (generally academic). Some tests that are helpful in teasing out information about a child, who may have AS, go beyond the tests that schools generally do and are contracted to be done by a separate tester. Here is where parents often prefer to add the neuropsychological battery or multidisciplinary team evaluation information. A key for obtaining a good evaluation is to use evaluators who have extensive expertise and experience with this type of diagnosis. Always ask if this tester or center does a lot of testing of children with similar concerns. When in doubt, contact AANE for experienced evaluators.
With well chosen tests done by experienced professionals, the parents and schools can better understand the child’s strengths and challenges. The suggestions and recommendations from these reports will guide the application of all interventions, strategies, accommodations and modifications of task requests.