This blog was originally published by Gary G. Brannigan, Ph.D. & Howard Margolis, Ed.D in www.reading2008.com/blog. They co-authored Reading Disabilities: Beating The Odds, a book to help parents identify reading difficulties, understand special education laws, work with schools, and, if necessary, challenge them to get their children needed services. It's available at www.amazon.com & www.reading2008.com . Also look for their forthcoming book, Simple Ways To Maximize Your Child's Potential, due out in mid 2011.
Parents often ask us for the names of experts to evaluate their children or help them develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Often, these requests come from parts of the country with which we’re unfamiliar. In such situations, we generally make these suggestions:
- Check who teaches the relevant graduate courses at your local university. For example, if you want an expert to evaluate your child’s reading problems, check the university’s catalog and course schedule to see who teaches courses on the evaluation of reading problems. If you want an expert to evaluate your child’s problems with mathematics, check who teaches such courses. Call these experts (often professors) to get a sense of their personality, professionalism, values, availability, and fees. If they can’t offer their services, ask them for recommendations.
- Check if local universities have clinics that specialize in your child’s problem, such as a reading clinic, a learning disabilities clinic, a behavioral difficulties clinic, a counseling center.
- Review electronic databases of journal articles, such as EBSCO. Databases are often available through libraries. Search them for relevant terms, such as "reading disabilities + evaluation" if you’re seeking an expert to evaluate your child’s reading problems. Read several recent articles. Then call the authors of those you liked, even if they’re a thousand miles away. Briefly discuss their articles and your child’s difficulties; ask if they can recommend experts within 50-miles of your home. It’s a small world: After a few calls, you may get several names.
- Check book reviews on www.amazon.com and www.bn.com. If possible, read at least 10 reviews. Call the authors of the well-reviewed books. They may know experts near you.
- Ask parents of children with similar problems. Ask who they would recommend, would not recommend, and why. If they used the expert they’re recommending, and you think they would be willing, ask to see a copy of their expert’s report or the IEP she helped write. See if several people recommend the same expert.
- Ask your child’s doctors. If they make a recommendation, ask what experiences they had with the expert they’re recommending.
Once you have the names of experts, interview them. Assess their knowledge, openness, availability willingness to listen, and interest in helping. Ask about their fees. Ask to see samples of their reports or IEPs (with names omitted). Ask how they conduct evaluations or help to develop IEPs and how, if needed, they’ll follow up.
Before interviewing experts, learn what a quality evaluation or IEP should look like. For information on reading evaluations, read chapter 5 of Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds (www.reading2008.com). For information on developing IEPs, read chapters 8 through 13.
Are these suggestions foolproof? No. But they can help you find experts who will make a positive difference in your child’s life.
If you have other ideas about finding experts, please put them in a comment on our blog. Your ideas may help many of our readers.