My child has a history of learning challenges and was diagnosed with mild auditory
processing disorder when he was in 4th grade. He has been working with a learning
specialist ever since to much success. Now he is finishing 8th grade and is really
struggling. He is bright and highly motivated, but is failing assignments and tests,
and often doesn't seem to know what is going on. The drop in his performance has been
pretty precipitous. He doesn't show signs of depression or anxiety (he is the same
happy and easy going guy), although he is also concerned with his failing grades. He
works very hard, so it is very frustrating.
He recently said he is having a hard time focusing in school and staying on task. I
have noticed that he is also having a very hard time remembering things at home (even
silly short-term things). I am considering getting him evaluated again. I have two
questions. What kind of person should I look for (specialty) and how much does this
usually cost? I am less concerned with looking for an accommodation at school as I am
in diagnosing the problem and getting him help.
The description of your child as he is now sounds exactly like me when I was the same age. I went
through the same things and unfortunately never got evaluated or diagnosed until I was so
overwhelmed my freshman year of university that I went on my own to a random therapist (who, in
turn, connected me with a psychiatrist). The diagnosis was ADD and I was given Ritalin (the only
option then) and it changed my world. I graduated 4.0 from a top university that I just barely got
admitted to, I worked full time while getting my masters and since then I've made adjustments (to
medications, therapie), as needed. Now these same behavioral issues are showing up in my own
children and, without any hard expectations either way, I took my daughter to a regular child
therapist who performed an eval, along with the help from her school, over 5 sessions, costing
about $40/appt because I have decent behavioral health coverage. If you don't have insurance there
are still hundreds of choices in the Bay Area, many who will work on a sliding scale. I recommend
that you don't think of it so much as being 'evaluated' but as taking your child to a therapist as
you would any doctor and during your parent-only session just let them know what you've observed
and what you're worried about and then hear what the doc has to say. If it's way off base then ask
your primary care doc for a referral for a second opinion. It's so good that you're open to
searching for help. It's a daunting business and you'll get there in the end.
I can highly recommend Berkeley psychologist Sumana Kaipa, PsyD (510-689-1051). Dr. Kaipa
performed a neuropsychological evaluation of our 10-year-old daughter. The evaluation was thorough
and its findings instructive and very well written. Dr. Kaipa herself was a pleasure to work with,
even for our daughter, who initially was not at all happy to be subjected to any kind of
evaluation, let alone a neuropsychological one that took several hours to administer, but who in
the end reported that Dr. Kaipa was ''warm, funny, and very nice.'' I don't recall exactly what
the evaluation cost but it wasn't cheep. On the other hand, it was a very sound investment,
providing us with just the kind of information we needed (still need) to make informed decisions
about our daughter's education and well-being.
HI worried mom,
I can offer you some advice based on my own experience w/ my son (now 20 and doing great).
1st big question...is he sleeping enough? That can be HUGE factor in lack of focus. Check out
sleep expert, medical doc and former Navy Seal, Dr. Kirk Parsley.
He has great info on his website and some youtube videos, including a great TED talk.
He talks about adolescents and sleep, electronics being in the room, etc.
Next your son might have a gluten sensitivity. This is known to affect brain function in kids and
adults. My son became a different person when he was gluten free (at age 8 ish). When I
accidentally eat gluten I have such severe brain fog I can barely think straight.
For more info on gluten and the brain, check out Dr. David Perlmutter
Neurologist and author of ''Grain Brain'' and ''Brain Maker''
I hope these two possibilities will help you. They are easy to investigate w/ way less cost then
testing. I'm happy to talk to you further. Please e-mail me. Wishing you the best,
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. Concerned Parent
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 http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/legal-rights/868-section-504.gs) and it helps determine what sort of learning differences and challenges your child may have. Good luck! Anonymous
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 important.
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. Claudia Starks
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 website: www.dredf.org . . .
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. another parent
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. Thank you. AB
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. MP
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! anon.
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 little differently.
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 not stigmatized. 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? good luck
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. concerned mom
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. Good Luck anon
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 succeed. been there
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 challenges. www.summitcenter.us
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 son.
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. Sharon
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! l.
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. Karen
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 this process? Thanks anonymous
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. Good luck! Lorraine
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. slg
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 as well. anonymus
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. Alan
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: www.help4adhd.org linda
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. drj
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 \x93hit the wall\x94 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\x92ll pass on the list of folks that I\x92ve worked with and recommend below. Please hang in there and try to not get too discouraged. If you\x92re 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\x92re 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 415 421-4177 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 Neuropsychological / Educational Testing Anne Walter, Psy.D. Bodin Associates, 3685 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA 94549 925 283-9100 Educational Consulting, Assessment, Crisis Intervention with Teens 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. M
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. THANK YOU!
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 guidance. 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 achievement.
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.
Also, here 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! Good luck! Concerned Teacher
Try Oakland Children's Hospital Youth Development Center. Happy Patient
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 homework.
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 to say...
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. m
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! Good luck! - 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. Joni
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''. anon teacher/parent
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. Albany Dad
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. Gina
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. anxious mom
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. anon
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 scores. Thanks! anonymous
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 questions! :) Lisa
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! Anon.
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. G.
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 grateful 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 intervention. Laura
Another resource, 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 him. Good luck! Sue (4/2001)
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 Berkeleyan.) Best of luck - Submitted by 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 neurologist. Eleanor (11/98)
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. (11/98)
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 Physicians group.
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. (11/98)
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 Karen (11/98)