Assessment for Learning Differences

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello, I'm living in Fremont, CA. I'm looking to conduct  a psycho-educational assessment in Arabic Language for my 10 y. son. I wonder if any parents here know some one who can do it?  I'll be so grateful if you help me with this issue as soon as possible . I need it urgently For IEE process.

    I hope you find someone, but (speaking as an assessment psychologist)  it may be challenging because most of the tests used for a psychoed eval have not been translated into Arabic. The WISC, which is the most common IQ test, has an Arabic version, but as it costs over $1000 to buy the test I'd be surprised if a lot of psychologists had it on hand. The other tests that they would want to use may not even have an Arabic version. The psychologist can't just translate as they go because then the test is not standardized and would be invalid. It appears that there is an IQ and academic achievement test designed for Arabic speakers called the Arabiya battery, but, again, these tests are super expensive to buy so few psychologists may have them. Good luck - 

  • Hello, 

    Looking for a great Assessor to perform IEE for my 14 year old daughter.  The school has done some testing but I am in disagreement with most of it and I suspect their may be an underlying condition to the one we are currently working with in her IEP which is ED (emotional disturbance).  The school sent a list of providers, however it looks like they bookings are mostly out until fall.  A couple names have come up on several occasions.  1.  Carina Grandison and 2. Natasha Limones.  Does anyone have any feedback on these providers or can you recommend any others who have done a great job helping your family?  What credentials should we be looking for besides a licensed school psychologist?  Is their a "medical piece" we should be adding to a thorough evaluation?

    Any feedback would be appreciated. 

    Carina was great, she did an assessment of my son 5 years ago.  She's a child neuropsychologist (PhD).  We were sort of asking a similar question to you :  "what is going on here?"  If you talk with her you could tell if what she does is what you are looking for (she is not a school psychologist).  Good luck with this, it is difficult to see your child struggle, I know.

    I've recommended them before, and will recommend them again, particularly if you have a 2E child. The Cal Psych Department does a very thorough job. They caught, and honed in on a specific area of learning difference. The report was good, and usable for accommodations at school. The only caveat was we needed a 504 plan, not an IEP because the student compensated well enough not to be below grade level to the point that the public schools would do an IEP. The child also had an initial eval through BUSD but they were much less thorough in identifying the specific area for remediation. Unfortunately we had to pay for the OT and other services out of pocket because it wasn't worth fighting with the school district.

    I would highly recommend Carina Grandison, PhD. She conducted an IEE Neuropsych evaluation for our daughter when she was 11 that was instrumental in securing my daughter's IEP, and helped us better understand her educational needs.  Dr. Grandison impressed us as highly skilled and perceptive. And an added plus is that she worked in a very kind way with my daughter who had undergone numerous assessments by the time she met with Dr. Grandison. She observed my daughter in her classroom and school and was able to elicit helpful feedback from her teachers. She was also efficient in using our time, and was gracious and easy to work with.

    We also engaged an advocate who was able to support us in making our case to school district personnel who initially seemed unable to recognize my daughter's challenges.

    Carina Grandison is great- she did an evaluation on my kid a couple of years ago and was very collaborative with us. When my other kid needed neuropsych assessment Dr. Grandison had a long wait list and we found Kim Thompson who we thought was thorough and fantastic. BTW- before we met with Dr. Grandison we met with Dr. Eraklis and thought the evaluation was fine but not excellent and that impression was confirmed once we received evaluations from Drs. Grandison and Thompson. The report from Dr. Eraklis felt more lightweight and less thorough than from the other two, and wasn't that much less expensive. One thing to keep in mind- brace yourself for the cost. Our insurance didn't cover the testing and each assessment cost at least $4K (I don't remember the specifics). 

    It's been a while since you posted, so I hope you have something lined up already. I have no direct experience with either Dr. Grandison or Dr. Limones, but have some general advice based on experience with multiple evaluations and assessors for my two children. I strongly recommend seeking an assessment by a neuropsychologist (but I have no specific recommendations, since the two we used are both retired now). Other professionals such as clinical psychologists can administer the tests, but in my family's experience the neuropsychologists had the background to recognize more varied patterns and interpret test results in a deeper and more comprehensive way. For example, one clinical psychologist saw a set of results as anomalous and odd, so tried to explain them in terms of some hypotheses about the child's early experiences. Later on, a neuropsychologist immediately saw the same results as indicative of a neurologically-based language deficit, which led us to effective treatment. My other piece of advice is that, in the long run, a high-quality assessment is worth the wait. I regret going ahead with the clinical psychologist's assessment rather than waiting several months longer for an appointment with a highly-regarded neuropsych. Instead, we had a misleading report and diagnosis and it delayed the appropriate diagnosis and treatment for a couple of years. I know it's hard to wait, but hang in there!

  • Has anyone had an excellent experience with an evaluator who is especially good with 2E kids?

    We would like to book a year or so out, with an evaluator who can produce this report and is particularly empathetic and knowledgeable on 2E (in this case, "gifted"/high IQ /ADHD/Anxiety).

    Thankfully we are not in a rush and would like to find the right person for this.

    Carina Grandison, PhD, Berkeley.  We have the exact same kid -- she was great.  It was a good experience for my kid, as well as for me.  Her schedule fills months out.

    We actually did well with the UC Psychology Department. The evaluation was very thorough, and the accommodations helpful. Just be aware that your child will need to be retested at 16 with the adult instruments for college accommodations. I felt like the Cal Students and the supervisor really “got” our kid. 

    Not sure if she’s retired but Teresa Doyle. Specializes in complex kids & adults.  She evaluated my daughter 10 yrs ago. She is kind, thorough, understands quirky kids & expensive.

    Dr. Elea Bernou is a neuropsychologist. She has an office in Lafayette. I’ve had a neuroevaluation with her and so did my middle school aged son.  Both of us are 2E. Elea is delightful. She always sees the best in kids and has such a kind and empathetic demeanor. Very knowledgeable as well.

    Dr. Elea Bernou: (925) 299-1056

    I second Carina Grandison.  She was recommended many times here, by my daughter's pediatrition, and by her psychiatrist.  She was great for us!

    The Summit Center in Walnut Creek specializes in gifted and 2E kids.  They did full neuropsych evaluations for both of mine, one of whom is a particularly complex 2E guy. I felt very confident that they were really able to tease apart all of the different things that could be going on and zero in on what supports would be helpful. They were also wonderful to work with; we've gone back to them a few times over the years as different issues have come up, and they've always been so helpful and encouraging. Best of luck to you!

    Hi- There was a similar question posted recently and the following paragraph is my response. With regard to 2E, I know both Drs. Grandison and Thompson understand the sensitivity and complexity of issues related to 2E (one of my kids was 2E). They are both very warm and empathic- I felt like they both went out of the way to be supportive of our family. Dr. Grandison does not have a website (but check Yelp), Dr. Thompson's is: . Also- you didn't mention how old your kid is but Big Minds school in Pinole ( is FANTASTIC for 2E kids. If the testing does show 2E and your child is the right age, consider doing a tour of the school.  Good luck and it's great that you're being so planful about this- I found having a really solid assessor (if that's a word) made all the difference. 

    Carina Grandison is great- she did an evaluation on my kid a couple of years ago and was very collaborative with us. When my other kid needed neuropsych assessment Dr. Grandison had a long wait list and we found Kim Thompson who we thought was thorough and fantastic. BTW- before we met with Dr. Grandison we met with Dr. Eraklis and thought the evaluation was fine but not excellent and that impression was confirmed once we received evaluations from Drs. Grandison and Thompson. The report from Dr. Eraklis felt more lightweight and less thorough than from the other two, and wasn't that much less expensive. One thing to keep in mind- brace yourself for the cost. Our insurance didn't cover the testing and each assessment cost at least $4K (I don't remember the specifics). 

    Dr. Aileen Mosig of has 2E gifted young adult kids herself and is brilliant. On the peninsula. Highly recommend. She worked at Summit in Walnut Creek before starting her own practice. Her reports are particularly thorough/comprehensive. I’ve used her for evaluations for my gifted kids and she’s great.

  • 6y old's anxiety is affecting schoolwork

    (3 replies)


    My 6y first grader has always been very anxious, but he has now reached a point that it is affecting his daily life and especially his school. He is so afraid of making mistakes,that he rather just does nothing in class.  His teacher and me are at wits end. Any advice or recommendations on a (cognitive behavioral) psychologist that accept Medi-Cal are greatly appreciated. Thank you! 

    I'm curious if he has been referred/assessed for an IEP through the school. That would be an important step and could potentially offer some support through Educationally Related Mental Health Services. 

    You might explore a 504 or IEP. Mental Health is an issue that can be part of a school district assessment.  Some info: See emotional disturbance on this list:

    Suggest seeing a psychiatrist first who specializes in OCD and anxiety disorders. Fear of making mistakes can be a sign of OCD. Has your son articulated if he thinks something “bad” might happen to him or someone he cares about if he makes a mistake? 

  • For those who have had their kids undergo a psychological assessment and gotten an expected diagnosis, was it worth it? 

    We can't easily afford the assessment cost (but could pay for it if we had to) and I'm pretty sure we know what our child's general diagnosis might be--so if that diagnosis is confirmed for nearly 2k, what then? We already have access to any medication and therapy options we're going to be offered through our insurance. They don't need any accomodations at school. All the behavioral symptoms schools would care about only present at home and there are no accomodations at school that would help them--it's not an issue of needing an aid, extra time for work, the ability to have breaks, etc.

    I'm wondering if we should put that assessment money towards a non-network therapist--or more sessions--or anything that helps our child. We also are already spending a lot of money on the issues we see. 

    We had an assessment done and it was the most valuable investment we ever made - but that was because it got our daughter who has high-functioning autism as well as ADHD and generalized anxiety the help she needed at school (speech language to help with social cognition issues and to help her learn to recognize her and others’ emotions, an aid to help her with attention and executive functioning, breaks for walks in the garden to help when she has anxiety attacks/tantrums). An IEP isn't necessarily first and foremost about testing accommodations - we don’t have any - but the emotional support has been invaluable, and helps her classmates and teacher too so that my child’s occasional outbursts don’t become the center of attention. You don’t say what you think your child I guess the one thing I’d suggest is that you have a frank conversation with your child’s teacher to find out if the behaviors you’re seeing at home really aren’t manifesting at school. We went through all of daycare/preschool, K, 1st, and most of 2nd without really realizing there were issues at school. My child loved school and would come home reporting great days, though maybe some disagreements, so it was hard to imagine a big problem. I was motivated to get the assessment when school stopped last spring and suddenly I was the one there all day. Only after the IEP, now that I have a more consistent conduit to learn about school behavior, do I realize that the things I was assuming were only home behaviors were always also school behaviors, and my child wasn’t getting the social emotional instruction she really needed to help her and her teacher. I can’t tell you how much having the IEP has revolutionized school for us, and getting the 20-page private assessment detailing a battery of tests really paved the way (also $2k isn’t bad - we paid $5k for an eight-hour assessment).

    So a psychological assessment (or even a psychoeducational one) and a neuropsychological assessment are qualitatively different. A psychological assessment typically covers history, intellectual capacity, some basic academics, and social/emotional/personality. A neuropsychological assessment will cover that in addition to things like learning and memory, attention and executive functioning, basic motor functioning, language, and also put all those things together (e.g., language skills are top-notch, but because of fine motor weaknesses, the child writes the minimal amount possible, and so doesn't get much practice at writing, which in turn leads to poorer writing skills over time).  One of the benefits of a neuropsych eval is that you can get a nuanced understanding of the ways in which a child presents with a certain diagnosis, which can be important to developing recommendations and accommodations, and helping parents to scaffold a child in a way that supports development. But I suspect $2k is closer to a psychological eval, not so much a neuropsych eval.

    I suspect you are on the right track in trying to define what your and your child's needs are in pursuing an evaluation and in a way that might answer your own question. It might be that the accommodations and supports put in place are not helping your child make progress, and in that case, having a roadmap to a better understanding of what is needed IS likely to be an important investment before you spend money on other providers. On the other hand, it might be that you feel like your child is already making all the necessary progress with the supports already put in place (or the supports are currently working but there is a separate need that everyone agrees could be satisfied with an outside provider). From what you've said, there might be several different elements at play: in one case, your child might be doing everything they can to hold it together behaviorally at school and the effort is so much that they fall apart when they get home because they are exhausted - in which case, maybe there are other pieces to a school plan that would help; an alternative might be that your child is a little more of an orchid and needs a particular parenting touch, and so a provider who can help you tweak your parenting may help the situation at home (And just to be clear, I'm really just spitballing here - no assumption on what your particular situation is, just playing out some of the hypotheticals). In this latter case, going straight to a private provider would probably be the way to go.

    And all this said, there is a real financial element, and what can be done as parents within those constraints might be different than what you would do without them. One final suggestion is that many psychologists and neuropsychologists will give you a circumscribed initial intake call for free - usually to discuss your particular situation and to answer your questions about their work. If you are very clear in laying out your questions around what an evaluation can and cannot provide, and can give them a little more detail on the particular issue you are trying to solve for, they could hopefully help you think through the options as to how to proceed.

    Best of luck with a complicated decision!

    IMHO, the answer to your question depends on some things that weren't mentioned in your message.... like the age of your child, what the diagnoses you suspect are? If they are academic/learning issues, then there would be some nuances that a neuropsych could shed more light on than a psychiatrist. But if you're looking at something like ADHD, a psychiatrist can do a good deal of testing to learn more about that. 

    The thing about the academic/learning issues is that they're not static.... they can change and they can affect your child more at different points in their academic career, depending on what they're challenged with. And a neuropsych is a glimpse into the moment in time when it is completed..... so if your child is younger it might make sense to wait until middle school to spend the money and get the data. Maybe they'll need accommodations then.

    If you're looking at psychiatric issues, then the same is true in a way. Those will affect them differently at different points in time. If this what you're dealing with, I'd invest the money in developing a good relationship with a very good experienced psychiatrist and therapist. I would not have done a neuropsych for psychiatric symptoms alone, though if they were severely affecting my child's life, perhaps I would. But I feel that we've gotten more from psychiatrist/therapist around mental health issues and then lots of very good insightful information about neurocognitive issues from a neuropsych evalulation.

    It's not easy having to make these decisions. I wish that there was a better system in place.

    If you are in Oakland and go to a public or private school in Oakland, OUSD will assess your child. If you are in OUSD, you simply need to request assessment. We were mildly concerned that our child may have a learning difference, the assessment result did not confirm this and I am not sure how thorough the assessment was to be honest but the tram was friendly, seemed competent, and the assessment seemed thorough spanning over multiple sessions. It was interesting to learn about how our child’s brain works and areas of her strength and weakness. We switched from OUSD to private school but the district continues the assessment and told us that Oakland residents who go to private schools are entitled to the service. So, please try and see if you can get this through the district. I was told private assessment costs $5k. 

  • I'm looking for any recommendations/referrals in the east bay/sf area for someone amazing to go to for a neuropsychological assessment for my daughter.  We are hoping to get this done before she starts kindergarten in August. 

    Thank you!

    Our daughter (6.5 at the time, last year) had neuropsych testing done by Dr. Ionascu at CHO. My daughter thought the whole thing was great fun. Dr. Ionascu also has a private practices in Moraga and Pleasant Hill, if you can't get a referral to Children's.

    I believe Whole Child Psychological Services has openings for assessing that age prior to the start of the school year.

    Dr. Carina Grandison is terrific. She's patient, engaging, fun, comprehensive and welcomes parents' involvement throughout the testing process.  Dr. Grandison has extensive experience working with children from a diverse array of backgrounds, including children who have experienced trauma.  I highly recommend her.  Please note that it will be difficult to complete testing before August, as many neuropsychologists will wish to observe your child in the classroom setting.  Be patient -- it's more important to get good data than to complete the assessment quickly.

  • Hi parents, our 4th grader has always been a hard worker and a decent student, but it takes her a long time to grasp new concepts, something we've attributed in the past to her being one of the younger kids in her grade. This year, given the proximity distance learning has afforded us (one pro!), we've noticed that while it's subtle, she definitely struggles with some reading/math and works quite slowly compared to others, leading her to an increasing level of anxiety. We'd like to get her assessed for a learning difference. Does anyone have recommendations on private options (we'll pursue the public route--OUSD--as well, but want to understand the range of possibilities) for effective learning assessments during this pandemic? My daughter is quiet and sensitive so we know that a foundation of trust will be very important, but obviously COVID creates challenges here. Thanks in advance for your advice!

    We had a great experience, during Covid, with Hannah Acevedo, 510 683-5930.
    She was very thorough. My kid is extremely sensitive. Hannah could not have done a better job making it a good experience for my daughter.
    Good luck.

    Hi there, 

    First off, just want to acknowledge how difficult remote learning has been for many kiddos during this time! I am currently working as a clinical psychology trainee at a charter school in Oakland and the state has now lifted the hold on on IEP requests, meaning that when parents submit a request, we have 60 days to assess your child. That being said, many academic and cognitive assessments that we would typically use to evaluate for any learning differences can only be done in person, and some families at the school I am at have opted to wait until they return in person (delay past the 60 day mark), while some have come in under pretty strict protocols (e.g. COVID asymptomatic testing for the student and examiner--provided by the school, masks, gloves, face shields optional, plexiglass partitions, food and water provided by the school and eaten outside only). I can't speak for all schools in OUSD, but this is how it's been operating where I am at. 

    The Wright Institute TAing for a Child Assessment class is led by licensed clinical psychologists who specialize in child & forensic assessment. As part of the training, students can assess a community participant free of charge and evaluate for learning differences or other social-emotional factors (i.e. anxiety, depression). All of the students are supervised so you will be able to get your results and feedback. While they can't necessarily provide IEP/504 accommodations, they have been able to help many families bring the evaluation to the school to seek accommodations. They use all of the same measures as a school psychologist would and many students are conducting in-person assessments as well as remotely. 


    I am a special education teacher and have experience with infants to 12th. I currently have worked with 4th-6th mild to severe needs in OUSD. All humans have learning differences and develop at different rates, yet usually follow a progression of development. Usually by 2nd/3rd grade most students who have a significant learning delay, processing speed difference or disability are identified by their school and teachers and are usually in interventions which if not effective then will be assessed for special education. Considering her age difference and that by 4th they are now reading to learn not learning to read, her prior non failing grades, and that many students have some sort of change in learning due to the changes pandemic school environment, I would say she is low risk for having a disability that would qualify her for special education. I wanted to be honest about that, but think that therapy is a good option or paid programs like Orton Gillingham. You can always pay a child psychologist out of pocket to do the intelligence testing  (like Woodcock–Johnson) to get a detailed analysis of how she is. There are a lot of teachers and special education teachers that can do similar tests or tutoring to get the inventions that she may need. A lot of parents have requested assessments since the pandemic and they are all on hold due to some are only valid when given in person, but we have had to deny many assessment requests if the student has a history of decent grades and pro social behavior.

    I hope that helps!

  • Hi All,

    Before the shelter in place our child’s first grade teacher mentioned it might be worthwhile to get her assessed for a learning disability (she and another intervention teacher who worked with our child thought she might have a processing issue). We were ready to request an assessment and then the pandemic happened.

    Our child completely fell apart under distance learning and in the last two weeks of school her teacher identified some strategies for her to try.

    We’ve tried to keep summer light and breezy but are uncertain whether or not to proceed with the request for an assessment. We’ve since been told it’s terrible for your child to get assessed by the district because then she’ll be labeled and that label will follow her into perpetuity. I just want the kid assessed so we can figure out the best interventions to support her not to feel like a total failure when it comes to school.

    Should we get her assessed through the district or try to go outside the district for the assessment. I’d really appreciate your thoughts and experiences.

    Thank you.

    As both an elementary teacher and also a mother to a daughter with an IEP I recommend that you take the school up and have your daughter assessed. I would start by having the district do it. In my experience, it is rare that a district offers a first grader testing. If she was thinking it is a good idea then it probably is. If your child qualifies For services, which is not that easy, it means she has some issues that should be addressed. Don’t feel bad about having her labeled because it could really help her get services that she needs. There has to be a big discrepancy between what your child is doing and what she is capable of doing so if she qualifies then she definitely needs some help. You can always say no to any services offered.

    I work in the district and work closely with students who have IEP and 504 plans, so I've seen the pros and cons of assessment first hand. In my opinion, I would do the assessment through the school. It's free and will give you a lot of information about how your daughter thinks and learns, which will be helpful even if you don't decide to give her a support plan. The nice thing about assessment is that whatever the outcome is is only a recommendation. If they suggest an IEP plan and you aren't comfortable with it, you do not need to approve it. If you don't want your child pulled out of class for extra support, you have the right to say so. I think getting the assessment makes a lot of sense and will give you much more information that you can then use to decide what interventions or strategies, if any, you would like to put in place for your child going forward.

    Feel free to email me if you have further questions!


    Sometimes the labels are the only thing that get you services. If she has a learning disability then the label just helps everyone know what general category to look in when they are considering services. And labels can help you understand more about how she learns.

    Several years ago my kid was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, ADHD and PDD-NOS, then later the DSM V called the PDD-NOS ASD instead. We still really have no idea exactly what the autism diagnosis really is for our kid since there are a lot of things that fit and some things that don't. But if you say "autism" to the school district, they get an idea of the possible challenges and you have more "ammunition" with which to fight for services. We don't really care what you call it. Our kid just says they are "neurodiverse."


    This is a hard time to face such a decision, and asking the questions is the best first step. This is more an info dump than advice persay.

    One difficulty right now is that remote testing has limitations, and in-person evals -- for which the student and the assessor have to be in the same room for several hours (with masks? which could affect building trust between evaluator and student, as well as basic intelligibility of speech) -- pose their own challenges. That will be true of any private assessment now as well.

    It isn't necessarily terrible for a child to be assessed by the district. But the eval will essentially go in the cumulative file (I believe psychological reports have more restricted access though). But that would also be true of a privately conducted eval that you shared with the school - it's just that you have the option to share it or not if you have it done privately. But if you don't share it, it's hard to request any accommodations or services recommended. If your child grows up to need accommodations or extra time on testing (including the SAT's or ACT's), it's easier to get if you have a long-standing documented history of need. Having a good assessment should also help you understand how your daughter learns, and (when school is back in session) will help her teachers best support her particular learning style, and give her any accommodations or services she needs to be successful in her education (realistically, implementation probably depends on the passion, energy, and innovation of the given teacher). And a good eval will help you advocate for her, and help your daughter to be her own advocate as she grows.

    As a clarification, a district assessment won't actually result in a "diagnosis," although a private assessment could. The school district will "classify" students who meet criteria for classification (e.g., Speech or Language Impaired, Specific Learning Disability, Autism, etc. - ADHD usually falls under Other Health Impaired).

    The risk of a label needs to also be balanced out by the risk of struggle. Leaning differences, left unchecked, can start to affect a student's self-esteem, emotions, and even social relationships, as well as their academic performance. In the best outcome, a label will be secondary to your daughter having a better understanding of her strengths and struggles and she will feel empowered as well as supported by the adults who understand how to help her.

    Since it sounds like your gut instinct is to proceed with an assessment, the questions are whether to pursue one now, or wait, and whether to get an eval free through the district or pay (often out-of-pocket, though sometimes insurance will cover some of it) for a private eval. Advantages to the private eval are that you get to pick the evaluator (and thus have a bit more control over the quality), and you have full control over who gets to see the results. That will partly depend on your personal circumstances. Waiting might be more feasible if the strategies suggested by the last teacher were ultimately moderately-to-wildly successful. If the new teacher is willing to have a video meeting with you to discuss your daughter's challenges and what has worked thus far, that might also buy you some time. It also depends if the school psychologist is currently conducting evals at all.

    Wishing you the best of luck! You're welcome to private message me if I can be of any more help.

    We had our younger child assessed by the school district.  She has a 504 plan.  We get a meeting at the beginning of each year, and the main thing we tell them is that if she just stands there when they tell her to do 3 things, she is not being defiant.  She can learn better when her teachers know she has a learning disability.  For us it has been a good thing.

    Absolutely have your child assessed! My child was assessed and it was such a sigh of relief to know why he struggled so much! (auditory processing issues for him). I really have never heard that getting a 'label' is a problem. Much more of a problem is actually GETTING the right diagnosis, because the district tends to give only the easy tests on the assessments and then they say, 'see nothing is wrong'. That happened to us too and then we ordered a private NeuroPych eval which was just soooo amazing. the neuropsychologist was so great about verbalizing to my son why he struggled, it was not that he was'stupid' etc.

    In most situations, the truth is the best thing, and it's no different when it comes to what your child's learning style/differences are. Your kid will be labeled regardless of being assessed, but at least the assessment is more likely to result in an accurate and more kind "label".  If your child is struggling at school, the easiest thing for teachers would be to say they are, well, not smart.  But, it could be that they have ADHD, or slow processing speed, a hearing issue or dyslexia which are not labels at all and aren't offensive. Plus, once you know what learning issue the child is dealing with, there are strategies to help them succeed.  My son's preschool teacher and director told us that he was retarded (in so many words!) and would be best served by special ed classes. They wrote a letter saying that much and the Kaiser developmental doctor who assessed him read it, and despite swearing it wouldn't influence his opinion simply paraphrased preschool's letter to produce his "assessment".  He saw him only once, and didn't even bother to check either his hearing or temperature (turns out my son had a hearing issue and was running fever later that day). The preschool also pushed us to get an assessment from the Berkeley School District, and while I was just as apprehensive as you are about that, especially after the fiasco with the Kaiser doctor, it turned out to be the best thing we could have ever done for him.  It was a team of specialists who observed him on multiple occasions and prepared a thoughtful actionable report. And yes, they were the ones who figured out my son had a hearing issue combined with a muscle tone issue, which resulted in speech and motor delays. They provided speech therapy for him, and I was hugely impressed by their speech therapist.  She was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and devoted to getting my kid to talk.  It was totally worth it driving him across town to see her server days a week.  My son is in college now (Cal Poly SLO), and he never had to be in a special ed class in spite of the labels his teacher awarded him.  It's been incredibly helpful to know what learning issues he had, because teachers and us parents knew how to help him succeed at school.  He's had 504 plan throughout all of his school years, and that translated into accommodations at college.  I have a friend who's never assessed her son who's now struggling in college, and she's going to pay for a private assessment in hopes to get him accommodations.  Up to you, but I'd recommend going ahead with an assessment if it's possible now - you may need to wait until the pandemic is over. School district won't push their services on you. It's the opposite, you should fight for your kid and get her all the help she needs.  Good luck. It will be fine.  They grow up. :)

    Getting an assessment by the school district in no way marks  a child in perpetuity.  Just getting an assessment can be a challenge, and getting an  assessment by the school district is no guarantee there will be any intervention arising from it. If anything, school districts in the Bay Area, with a few notable exceptions, will do their best to NOT qualify students for intervention through an IEP. IEPs are legally binding and require follow up yearly and retesting to make sure the student continues to qualify. So no, the process is an ongoing one, and no one gets labeled unnecessarily, and services are not provided automatically. Some districts will rely heavily on 504, not IEPs, but that usually only involves classroom level accommodation that is not enforceable. Actual  interventions with remediation and specific therapies provided by and paid for by the school district are actually really hard to come by. The other option is to have a kid assessed privately, but I would caution against doing that. From a practical standpoint of pandemic, given the barriers of masking and social distancing and heavy reliance on doing remote assessment, the validity of data gathered is an issue as norms are not based on these conditions. The  quality of the information gathered Is questionable at best. Second, school districts usually don’t accept outside evaluations anyway, so even if the data were valid, it would’t be used for eligibility or for intervention planning.

    No one has planned for pandemic and special education, so there are no legal guidelines for how districts have to proceed given the realities of distance learning.  I would call up DREDF ( disability rights and education defense fund) and ask what is happening these days and get a sense for how to best proceed... 

    Best of luck!

    Please don’t worry about a label following your child forever. Ours got an IEP from the BUSD in 3rd grade. When he transferred from the BUSD to a private school in 7th grade, his public middle school sent his complete permanent record to the private school. That permanent record has been in my possession ever since the private middle school closed down, and I read through it carefully several times. I never found any reference to his IEP, his diagnosis, the assessments done by the district, or the reports (that I disclosed) from a private neuropsychologist. As far as I know, all of that was kept private in a separate file in the district's special ed office.

    My son has overcome his disability and is now in grad school —  no label or paper trail followed him. In fact, there was a big improvement in his permanent record after he qualified for special ed! The permanent record has all his report cards, including the teachers' comments. Before his IEP, they made uninformed and blaming comments about the symptoms of his disability. They faulted him for failing to perform as expected, framing it as disobedient refusal rather than inability. After he qualified for special ed, they didn’t say as much about his disability, and their comments were better-informed and less negative.

    An assessment can help get your child get the assistance that her teacher suspects she needs, but whether it’s done by the BUSD or outside it will need to be disclosed to the school. Outside assessments are expensive. They may happen either faster or slower than the district’s, but they can be more thorough and be done by professionals with higher levels of training. Our child went through two rounds of outside neuropsych assessments at different stages; they were more extensive, up-to-date, individualized, and more informative than the testing done by the district.

  • Seeking Neuropsych evaluation

    (8 replies)

    We are looking for a neuropsyc eval for our child who is showing anxiety and ADHD symptoms. I have found a number of them and have spoken on the phone and via email. We have found a range of about $3000-$6000, most have a flat fee and have wait times from 3-6 months out. However, we really need to start now. The two we have found that could see us this Feb have both the Highest price so far and the potentially the lowest price. I have not been able to find reviews of either of these doctors online. I am hoping that someone has used them and can give a review.

    There is Debbie Bonardi and Megan McConnell. If we went just by the distance their office is from our house we would go with Bonardi, but that sort of seems like a low bar for trusting someone with testing that will hopefully help us with making a plan to help our child thrive.


    This isn't your question - but I want suggest getting into therapy now, and for the neuropsych evaluation I would wait and use someone you trust and who has a good reputation.  We did this, were able to book a therapy appointment for our kid quickly.  Later did the neuropsych evaluation.  The therapist can get to know your child over time and work with them about anxiety and issues.  Anyway, just our experience in dealing with this, it is not easy.  Good luck. 

    Agree with first poster. Start therapy ASAP. The eval can wait. My child also has anxiety + ADHD and even group therapy through Kaiser for a semester helped a lot with the anxiety management.

    Neither of those providers are neuropsychologists, they are clinical psychologists. There is a difference in training and experience. $6K seems high for a non-neuropsychologist. If you’re going to spend the money on an assessment I’d say get the best there is which is probably going to be with a neuropsychologist who will have more expertise, and ultimately may be able to help you more effectively, than a straight clinical or school psych. Unfortunately there aren’t too many neuropsychs and they tend to get booked out. Therapy could be a good interim support if you feel like you need immediate help. 

    We highly recommend Dr. Jessica Lipkind, Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, who did testing of our daughter who has dyslexia and anxiety issues. Dr. Lipkind is smart, compassionate, supportive, and great with dealing with the school once the testing results are in and accommodations are needed. The administrators at our school were highly impressed with her report, which helped our daughter navigate middle and high school. Our daughter is now a successful college student due to Jessica's help. She has an informative website.

    While it won't fit in to the time frame you're hoping for, you may want to consider getting your child assessed at the UC Berkeley Psychology Clinic.  The assessment is conducted by grad students under close supervision by a professor, and it's very thorough and also low-cost.  The only downside is the waiting period, likely until the summer.  The learning specialist at our daughter's school said the report from UC was by far the best she'd ever seen, in terms of clarity and completeness, and it has helped us a lot to understand what our child is experiencing.  The UC clinic has also helped us deal with our kid's school and has offered to continue to do so next year when she's in high school.  Finally, we really liked the people at UC.

    We just completed the ADHD evaluation process at Kaiser, from the time we self-referred to when we get the results in 2 weeks it will have just been 2.5 months.  Because our daughter had a concussion over a year ago we are working with a neuro psychiatrist.  The wait times you mention I imagine are just to get the first intake appointment and exclude time to gather evaluations from teachers, etc. and write up the report. Might be quicker to switch to Kaiser if you can and go through them versus waiting that long.

    Regarding the therapy versus eval, at the one parent group I attended, the facilitator when asked about the need for medication said that ADHD lives in the prefrontal cortex, so therapy alone won't fix that. The therapy can help with anxiety tools, but in our case with a daughter that most likely has the inattentiveness type, months of therapy have done little help with her emotional regulation issues, especially at night. When she has an emotional response out of proportion to the whatever set her off, it can go on for over an hour and the techniques we were taught in therapy before realizing she probably has ADHD do little to stop that sot of irrational looping/spiraling. 

    One thing I recommend is to get your child tested convergence insufficiency, a functional vision disorder that can't be detected via a standard vision exam. It's something we never considered because our child loves to read and has tested as above average in reading. Many of the symptoms are the same as ADHD. While kids can have both ADHD and CI, some kids can have just CI. We got an initial diagnosis after a 1.5 hour exam at UC Berkeley's School of Optometry. Here's a link to more info on the link with vision and ADHD:

    I posted earlier but wanted to add that if your child's ADHD symptoms are causing difficulties at school, then it would be beneficial to get the evaluation so he/she can get a 504 Plan or an IEP so there are accommodations at school. Even just starting the evaluation process has helped my daughter. She was feeling like something was wrong with her and that she wasn't that smart as she was having to put in way more effort/time than everyone else and constantly being nagged to focus. Knowing that it is a function of her brain, not her intelligence has boosted her moral.  

    I'll put in a pitch for the Summit Center. They evaluated both are kids, while I can't promise affordability or speed, I will say they know a ton about anxiety and ADHD. They'll also make sure to focus on your child's strengths as well as what might be holding them back. In the meantime, you might take a look at Dan Peter's book (he runs Summit) on children and anxiety called "The Worry Monster."  The approaches in it were very helpful to us. Also we found address our daughter's learning differences really reduced her anxiety.

  • We always suspected our 9th grade daughter might have a mild form of dyslexia but now we think it may be some other type of similar learning disability, we don't know what, that results in her taking a longer time to complete written assignments, reading assignments, and written tests than other family members. She works hard and gets good grades but is very stressed out by the amount of time it takes her, and the fact that she can't finish tests. Can anyone recommend a good diagnostician who can also counsel us on obtaining a 504 Plan in light of the looming SAT test?

    I highly recommend Dr. Carina Grandison: 510.704.1820 - if she is booked for months then try: Kristin Gross: - 510.530.1676. They both are excellent!

    We saw Jack Davis in Lafayette.  What you describe sounds like our daughters - slower processing speed.  Both are allowed extra time on tests and the SAT.   Totally worthwhile checking this out now as there is often a wait list for whomever you have her see 

    We just had a diagnosis done on my daughter, who's a high school junior. We had asked the schools 3 times over 8 years to give her an assessment and finally got sick of the non-action and did this ourselves.  We used Zoe Collins, who was able to pinpoint her narrow learning disability and then we took this to the school.  The 504 plan was not hard to get at Berkeley High School but we are having issues with the standardized tests and talking to other parents, it looks like their protocol is to deny accommodations to everyone and let people fight this on appeal, no matter how great the disability.  According to the counselor, this year has become even more stringent than before.  We are currently in the process of appealing and don't know how it will turn out.  I would really recommend you get an assessment ASAP so that you don't end up in the same situation as we are, especially because going through school with no accomodations has affected my daughter's grades, which affects her college offerings along with the standardized tests.


    We realized that our son had similar issues at the beginning of 10th grade.  His grades in 9th grade were substantially lower than in middle school and we could not figure out why.  It turned out that his middle school teachers were giving him extra time to finish nearly every exam, include the standardized state tests, but the high school teachers did not.  We scrambled to figure out where to get him tested and went with the Ann Martin Center.  It was less expensive than many other options, they readily identified him as having processing issues (which affected his test-taking speed), and made specific recommendations for accommodations.  With those accommodations, his high school grades improved dramatically.  With extra time on the SAT, he was able to do well and was eventually accepted at his first choice college.  And best of all, he regained his confidence -- which let him have a strong freshman year at college. 


    Friends of mine have had good things to say about the Ann Martin Center in Emeryville for learning difference diagnostics (they are one of the lower-costing options for private diagnostics.)  As well, you might want to check in with reviews on BPN for neuropsych testing and educational therapists for guidance with remediation and accommodations on tests. Your child's pediatrician might have a referral for you for a neuropsych in the area.  Jack Davis is someone who has been referred to me a number of times.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Best Person for Educational Testing?

Nov 2015


Our son is in second grade in the WCCUSD. He appears to have some learning issues. We have not been impressed with the IEP testing process. From what we've observed, they will do backflips to conclude that the child is within the normal range of development.

We're looking for referrals to someone extremely well regarded and credible to do independent testing for him. This needs to be someone independent with nothing to gain from good or bad test results. The goal would be to get the testing done by someone whose results I can trust. I don't trust anyone employed by the school district or anyone associated with a private educational organization who stands to make money through enrollment.

We understand that this will be expensive. That's not our primary concern at this point. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks

I've recommended them before, but I want to recommend UC's Psych Clinic for testing. They do a very thorough job, and the graduate students are well-supervised. They also meet the criterion of being objective. A further thought -- it is difficult to get services in 2nd grade, because (at least in Berkeley) eligibility for services requires being two grade levels behind -- i.e. a second grader testing at the K level. Even if a child has a large discrepancy between areas, if they are at or above grade level it is pretty much impossible to get services in the areas where they need them (at least in Berkeley.) We ended up paying for OT and some other services out of pocket and using a 504 plan to get accommodations. However, it is good to have a better understanding of what is going on in order to advocate for your child. anon

Hi - I also have a 2nd grade son in the WCCUSD. Last year we went through the process of getting an IEP assessment for him for speech issues - at times he was so inarticulate at home that even his parents couldn't understand him. However, the school speech pathologist found that his speech problems didn't meet the district (actually State, I believe) standard for intervention. We then went to Kaiser (our healthcare provider), had him tested again, and Kaiser found him to be right on the borderline - they didn't recommend intervention, but they would have paid for a short course of therapy to see if it helped. I think this is because my son is a pleaser, tries very hard with new people/authority figures (other than parents, ha!), and yeah, as a result doesn't present his biggest problems to outsiders. I can't disagree with the result of the assessments, and I found everyone at the District level (and at Kaiser) to be professionals. Now, my son's issues turn out to be bigger than speech, and at the moment I'm preparing to start the 504 assessment process for him. DREDF (in Berkeley) has a parent training monthly on IEPs/504s that I found to be somewhat helpful (although I'd say it is most applicable to parents with profoundly disabled children), and there are lots of online resources about the limitations and benefits of each type of plan. As you may already know, WCCUSD hosts both a monthly special ed formal meeting as well as biweekly (?) parent coffee chats about IEPs/special ed generally. Good luck with your child's journey.

I am currently in the assessment and IEP process in BUSD so I don't have a recommendation on a specific person but you should know that if you are dissasisfied with the results of the your district's testing you have the right to ask for an outside assessment at their cost. You get to choose the person who does it and the District pays. You can speak with a counselor at DREDF for more specifics on this process. They are located in Berkeley at Ed Roberts Center and have a special line to answer questions. Hoping (but not conviced) the District will dothe right thing!

Evaluation for 8th grader's learning disabilities

May 2015

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.
Worried Mom

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.
Sounds Familiar

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 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.!mystory/c1ad8
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,
June K


Diagnosing Teen's Learning Difference

Sept 2012

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 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: . . .

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


Teen son's learning disability & depression

May 2011


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


School wants us to have son tested - should we?

Jan 2010


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.

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


Assessment for struggling teenager

Dec 2007


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: (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 and 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: 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 ( as is the Ability Resource Center in Lafayette ( 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 

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


Assessment for 6-year-old

Nov 2007


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,

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


Assessment for 8-year-old?

Jan 2006


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.

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


LD and ADD assessment for 3rd grader

Nov 2005


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


LD assessment for 12-year-old

March 2003


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.


Where to get 6-year-old evaluated



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 Educational Therapy Clinic

April 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; 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




Psychologist to access 15-y-old's potential learning disability?

Sept 2001


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)

Public Schools

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)