What is the difference between public and private testing?
When a parent notifies the school district that his/her child may have special needs, the school district is obligated to conduct testing at no cost to the parent. Usually the district has an obligation to test in all areas of suspected disability. This could mean psychological and educational testing as well as a speech and language evaluation, an occupational therapy evaluation, a physical therapy evaluation, and/or some other form of testing – depending on the particular circumstances of the case. In certain cases, if a parent disagrees with the school district’s findings, it may be possible to obtain a private evaluation at the school district’s expense, although there are specific guidelines that must be followed and obtaining this funding can sometimes be a difficult process. If you have the means to do so, it is encouraged to obtain a private, comprehensive evaluation even if reimbursement from the city is not a viable option.
Although a school district is obligated to conduct testing in all areas of a child’s suspected disability, you may determine that their testing neglected some important areas or that their evaluation was otherwise inadequate. You have a right to pursue private testing and the school district has an obligation to genuinely consider those findings at your child’s IEP meeting. How carefully it must be considered has been the subject of litigation and, most likely, the weight that it is given will depend on the particular team you are dealing with. However, if the private testing is thorough and sound and the evaluator is willing to participate in meetings and/or an impartial hearing to bolster the findings, it should prove useful. Parents typically find that obtaining private testing is invaluable for understanding their child’s needs and navigating through the special education process.