Learning Disability Assessment for College Accommodations

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi All,

    My h.s. senior is applying to college! He has always had an IEP in Oakland Unified for specific learning disability (dyslexia). His testing is more than 3 years old. It looks like I will need to get him evaluated privately to qualify him for accommodations in college. Can anyone recommend an agency or individual who won't be super expensive? (I don't think the school will provide the testing because they are trying to "exit" him from services.)

    Thank you!!

    UC Berkeley will do testing as will the Ann Martin Center (sliding scale).

    I believe they need to eval him in order to exit. You might want to check on the process. 

    Yes, you've got to set up the testing on your own.  The school should, if they're conscientious, provide you with names of people who do the testing.

    Be sure to request accommodation for both the SAT and ACT tests.  Accommodation for the ACT is more useful to most students, but is also harder to obtain from the test-maker.

    Raymond Barglow

    East Bay Family Institute has a wonderful technician, Liz Walser. 


    Five years ago we paid $1500. 

    I've used Clearwater Assessment for my children.  I won't say it's cheap but it's relatively reasonable.

    We used UC Berkeley for our student who had a 504 plan in high school. The tester seemed very aware of the accommodations that would be needed for going to a UC (early registration, extended time on testing, lower course load.)  Sliding scale.

  • My son just turned 21 and has not made much progress with college. In preschool, he was diagnosed with borderline auditory processing disorder and received some language therapy, but he did fine in K-10, so we did not seek any further help. But he stopped doing schoolwork in 11th grade and ended up doing poorly. So he initially decided to go to a community college, away from home, to study outdoor education leadership, which seemed like a great plan. He did gain some great skills, but during his one year there he did not complete the academic classes required to be on track for a 2 year degree or transfer. After a semester off, working and traveling, he came home and is going to SF City College, but has been struggling. He is unable to keep up with a full time courseload, falls behind in one class or another and has to drop it. We encouraged him to quit his job this semester, but he had still not kept track of what he needs to do in each class, dropped a class and may be falling behind in another. He also says he is a slow learner, which is puzzling. He is smart, independent, extremely outgoing, social justice minded. Everyone he meets, of any age, likes him and remembers him -- and often, wants to offer him a job ( just not one that pays well enough to afford to live on his own in the bay area). He is fantastic with kids and would like to be a teacher, but I am wondering how he is going to get through college at this rate. Should he have testing to see if he has a learning disability? Can he get this at Kaiser? What help is available for community college students if he is diagnosed with a processing disorder or executive functioning disorder? Or without such a diagnosis? Should we just figure he will mature and get through college at his own pace? I feel very conflicted about continuing to support him financially at 21 if he is not in school full time really focusing on getting thru school. 

    I have a kid like this. He did eventually make it through 2 years of community college and then he transferred to a UC and (eventually) graduated!  So don't give up! My son took only one class per semester until he felt confident enough to go up to 2 classes, and then 3 or 4 classes at a time. Before that he had repeatedly dropped out midway through the semester.  We supported him while he took minimal classes trying to get his bearings. He was older than 21.  It took a few years but he did make it through. Be aware that there are counselors at the community colleges, and your son should talk to them. It does take patience and persistence. It might be a hassle to make an appointment and he might have to wait for a while. Ask your Kaiser primary care doc for a referral. If you have the funds to pay for a neuropsych evaluation for him it would probably be worth it. 

    I'm a community college professor and happy to talk with you if you contact me directly. 

    He should get assessed and they may be able to do some of it right on campus. If he has a documented disability then there should a center on campus to help with accommodations (e.g tape recording lectures, note takers, longer time for exams, etc.,) depending on his diagnosis. Also, only about 10% of students finish community college in 2 years. So, his path is fairly typical. Does SF City College use Canvas for the course management system? Do his instructors input all the due dates into the calendar feature? They should have a syllabus that has the due dates of the exams and major assignments.  It sounds like entering those things in some calendar system right at the start of the semester would be helpful. The counseling department at SF City college has some student success classes where they will teach study skills, etc. (https://www.ccsf.edu/en/student-services/student-counseling/WelcomePage_...). 

    It sounds like he might like a school like Prescott College. It is a liberal arts school in Arizona. You can get a degree in Adventure Education and teaching credentials. They typical resident student sounds a lot like your son. 

    I would recommend having him tested.  Both at community college, and at UC (based on our experience), he will have support available to him, which can include taking a slightly lighter course load.  Many kids are taking 5 years now for a Bachelor's, with and without the support needed based on learning issues.  Best of luck to him

    Your son sounds like a wonderful person.  I encourage your son to contact the disabled students center at City College http://www.ccsf.edu/en/student-services/student-counseling/dsps.html.  He should ask for a learning disability evaluation, as what you describe about his childhood challenges lead me to believe a learning disability could be a big part of the problem.  If he is found to have a learning disability, City College can help support him with learning help and accommodations (he would likely do best with a reduced courseload, for example).  Kaiser does not do learning disability testing.  Best of luck to your son. 

    My son has Auditory Processing Disorder, and , yes, he needed extra time on tests and accommodations. I fought to keep him an IEP through 12th grade, and took the last IEP to his community college where he has accommodations now too. Auditory processing Disorder is such a subtle thing, it is hard to pick up on it. But after reading about it, I see his struggles now. When I tell him, for example, three instructions in a row, he may remember two. I would definitely read up on it and recommend having your son tested. It is expensive though...

    My husband is like this. He's now a college-degreed, gainfully-employed, almost 40-yo with an awesome wife and daughter. (You'll have to take my word on the wife!) My husband dropped out after a year of college when he was 19, worked some dead-end jobs that just barely paid his rent (or sometimes didn't) and started over taking community college classes in the evenings when he was 26. We met during his community college days, and got married shortly after he got his bachelor's at 30. All that to say, be patient. Some people are not equipped to attend college full-time at 18, 20, 22, or 24, and that's ok.

    What does he want to do, and does it involve going to college right now? Does he want to work for awhile and go back later, if at all? He's 21, and he needs to take the lead on this. You're totally within your rights to not support him financially if you don't want to, but be straight with him about what his options are, and know that it's his responsibility to make his own choices.

    Also want to say that there are lots of ways to teach that don't involve being a credentialed teacher with a college degree in a classroom. Outdoor education, if that's a passion of his, can be done as a career without a degree. Many other vocational type teaching is the same. I know two wonderful arts educators with careers that have kept them working consistently who don't have bachelor's degrees. They don't make much money, but you know as well as I do that having that college degree is no guarantee of making any more money, especially once you factor is student loan payments.

    My son is 21 and started CCSF with an IEP right after high school. I have navigated the system (and the archaic website) and can share what I've learned. I see that others have recommended testing, which is how your son will be able to qualify for services. Once he does, he can make an appt at the DSPS office (another poster included the link). They offer standard supports and accommodations, but it's up to the student to make use of them. My son was given materials to arrange a notetaker, but he's never followed through, which is unfortunate because he misses a lot in class. They also referred him to an academic counselor who helped him plan out several semesters' worth of classes.

    He's only been able to handle two per semester, and I've made my peace with that. He's super bright and engaged, but he doesn't really like school and never has. I am pushing him to get the AA degree and will continue supporting him as long as he's in school and working part time. A couple of things that have helped along the way: a little gem called the Metro Transfer Academies, a "school within a school" that offers a handful of general ed classes each semester. I think it started as a program for health majors but now it's open to anyone. One or two tutors sit in the classroom so they know the curriculum. It's just a more accessible entry point for those who may not do well with transitions or get easily overwhelmed. There's a short application to join the program. You can email metroacademies [at] ccsf.edu or go to https://www.ccsf.edu/en/educational-programs/learning-community/StudentR.... Here are the spring offerings:


    Another thing I've done is help my son pick classes based on the teachers. I know educators loathe ratemyprofessors.com, but it has been a valuable tool to find instructors who were either a better fit for my son, or just better in general.  Another benefit of being connected to DSPS is that he gets priority registration every semester. That's a golden ticket right there. He just has to make an appointment with DSPS once each school year to maintain his status.

    Finally, I believe CCSF has a good child development program; your son might take a class or two. http://www.ccsf.edu/en/educational-programs/school-and-departments/schoo...

    So that's it! Good luck and feel free to contact me if you have questions.


Archived Q&A and Reviews


Helping College-Age Daughter get Extra Testing Time

Dec 2012

My daughter, who is a junior in college, would like to get tested for learning disabilities to see if she needs more time on tests. She feels like it is a real issue and, in fact, some tests we had done years ago indicated learning disabilities. Whether rightly or wrongly, we let the issue drop as she seemed so successful in school. Does anyone know how to go about getting this done? Any specific names of people who do this kind of test? We're going to try and line it up over her winter break if possible... Thanks so much!

I can't say enough to recommend Carina Grandeson, Ph.D. The number I have for her is 510-763-9795. She often speaks on the topic of learning disabilities and helping our young people learn to adapt to them, so you might be able to attend a talk to make your own appraisal, or even invite her to speak at your daughter's former high school or at a community group you are involved with. Carina is a straightforward, no-nonsense, articulate and compassionate type of person. Her ''no-nonsense'' attitude is primarily reserved for school administrators who suggest that learning cursive, using lavender paper, or just trying harder is all your young person needs -- and she can back up her position with citations to academic studies. A full evaluation is expensive. Sometimes you can do with less, to achieve your aim; sometimes not. Carina will be honest and frank with you about what is needed in your daughter's circumstances. She told our son he was gifted as well as having learning disabilities and to those with great gifts also came great responsibility to use them. He was young at the time. She also sees older adolescents. For us, it was worth every penny.

Here's what her LinkedIn page says: ''Dr. Grandison has been in practice for 20 years, conducting neuropsychological assessments with children of all ages with a wide range of neurocognitive and developmental disorders. Most recently she was the Director of the Neuropsychology Assessment Service at Children's Hospital Oakland. Trained at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, she has practiced at Massachusetts General Hospital and UCSF where she still is Assistant Clinical Professor. She currently maintains a full time private practice in Berkeley, CA.'' If the phone number I have is out of date, look her up. Mother of a college senior

Trish Schreiber is in SF and is great. She most frequently works with high school students, but I'm sure that translates to older students too. On Union Street. Sue


Learning Disability testing for College - UCB?

August 2011

We are considering UC Berkeley Psychology Clinic for a learning assessment for our high school senior. The assessment is needed in order to qualify for disability services at college. The testing is conducted by graduate students under the supervision of UC faculty. I am wondering if we will get as comprehensive a report and recommendations as we would, if we chose a licensed psychologist experienced in the field. There is a significant cost savings if we choose UC. Thanks anonymous

A few years ago, I worked with the UC Berkeley Psychology Dept. for my daughter. She had a graduate student who was supervised by the best in the field (cognitive behavioral therapy for panic disorder in our case), a top guy in Berkeley. We never met or heard about him, but the counselors she had - 2 over the course of 3 semesters - were excellent. They were clear in their diagnoses, flexible and allowing choice in ideas for further treatment, and totally positive and forward looking about my daughter's future. And they were supportive of her place in her family, her relationship with me and respectful of me in their general attitude while allowing the experience to be her own confidential thing, she was 16-17. This was important because bonding with a girl that age over her natural developmentally appropriate rejection of her mother would be an easy cheap trick and they didn't do it. (Not all that can be said for a supposedly experienced therapist she saw later.) Their age actually made them more approachable for her. What she learned there was the foundation for further self examination. That was our experience. anon

My daughter was evaluated by the UC Berkeley clinic in 2006 when she was in high school. The report was extremely helpful to us as parents and to the staff of the high school as well. I am a professional in the field of LD, have seen many reports and appreciated how the UC report not only gave results but also gave the observations of the process as my daughter was assessed. ed. therapist

We had our son evaluated by a grad student at the UCB clinic and got a thorough evaluation and helpful report. We needed it for services in high school and we'll use it now for college support. The grad students are supervised and a licensed psychologist signs the report as well. I've seen other reports via my work and they are all solid. Kathy

ADD/LD testing for college accommodations

April 2009

My daughter presently has a 504 plan due to ADD and dyslexia at her public HS. UC Irvine is requesting a whole new battery of testing by a psychologist or neurologist. Has anyone used private insurance for testing? I'm hoping if I find a neurologist my insurance will cover most of it. Right now the well known psychologists are going for $4200 to $6000 for the testing battery. Anyone been there done that? Advice? I'm thinking of going with Dr.Grandison if I choose a psychologist. Thanks! anon

Try the UC Berkeley School of Psychology Clinic or the Ann Martin Center in Oakland (www.annmartin.org) both provide the sort of testing you are looking for and are much less expensive than the price you mentioned.

My daughter was tested at the Ann Martin Center and I know someone who used the UC Berkeley Clinic. Both are in high demand and may not be able to accommodate you right away but are very competent and well worth the savings. Been There

I also have a high schooler with a 504 plan due to health issues and ADD. I'd love to hear more from the parent whose child received a request from UC Irvine for additional testing. Could you please elaborate on what kind of accommodations college students would be eligible for? Also, how did UC know about your child's circumstances? Is this something you are required to reveal in the application process? Does it help/hurt in terms of admissions?

I had been told that assessments are valid for three years. Therefore if your child is a sophomore, you would need to have a fresh assessment to see you through the rest of high school and to be eligible for accommodations on the standardized tests. What I don't know is what happens once the child starts college. Do you need to get yet another assessment to have on file with the college? If so, who do you meet with and get help from? Anyone with experience on this care to weigh in?

I have heard college admissions folks from Stanford, UC Davis, and St. Mary's all say that they really want to know when students who are applying have learning issues, but then they also all went on to say that admission to their respective institutions was based on high test scores, high gpa, etc. The impression they left with me was that, yes, they want to know, but no, such students don't receive any special consideration. If anything, such students are expected to do just as well as their peers despite having additional challenges to overcome. I'd love for parents of college-aged students who have learning issues to share with us what their experiences with these issues have been. What advice can you share with the rest of us? anonymous

I have had a lot of experience with both the testing process and the local testers. I've never been able to get insurance to pay for it although some companies will depending on your child's diagnosis. I strongly recommend Dr. Jack Davis (510)693-8439 whose office is in Lafayette. He is simply the best and most thorough I've met and he is more reasonable than most. I'd be glad to talk about specific testers if you e-mail me drj

Hopefully, the psychologist has recommended an Individual Education Plan (IEP) because your son appears to have a disability interfering with his education. You have the legal right to request it if not. As soon as you notify the school of a suspected disability, a series of legal protections kicks in for your kid, including required psychoeducational testing at the school's expense. Because this focuses only on education, I recommended more comprehensive psychological testing in addition. We did this with my daughter after she was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. The terrific psychologist who did hers is Dr. Richard Pollack at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley. We paid only $1400, part of which was reimbursed by our private health insurance (he submitted a claim for us). It was worth every penny. He really got to know her and his insights, diagnoses and recommendations were tremendously helpful. You can reach him by calling his Walnut Creek office (925-945-1355) or Herrick Hospital's Adolescent Psych unit and asking how to reach him. Another option is the public UC Psychology Clinic in Berkeley (510-642-2055), which offers detailed psychological testing for only $20! Nancy

Our son was tested by a pediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Alex Peterson, last year when he was 13. The testing revealed a diagnosis of ADHD. The cost was around $4000 and much to my surprise and delight, our insurance (Anthem Blue Cross) covered most of it. It sounds like your child will be tested a 2nd time and the purpose of the testing is not medical management, so the coverage in your situation may be different. Dr. Peterson was recommended by our pediatrician and I recommend him without hesitation--he is pleasant, appropriate, knowledgable, and has gone out of his way to help with our school and teachers--in a word, fantastic. His office is in the Montclair area and his # is 510-531-0500. Good Luck

Re-testing is required for accommodations in college because the original tests are usually normed for youngsters, and colleges require testing results that are normed for adults.

My son had a double diagnosis of a learning disability and ADHD. As it turned out, accommodations based on the ADHD required only documentation from the psychiatrist. Accommodations based on the learning disability would have required re-testing. (There is an explanation for the difference -- I wish I could remember it...)

All my son needs is extra time on tests, so the simple way worked out perfectly for us. If he had needed more complex accomodations, there would have been no way out of the re-testing. (For example: a person to take notes for him, or recorded textbooks, or other things I'm not really familiar with.)

One last thing -- especially if re-testing turns out to be necessary. Reading the other posts, and the amounts that people have paid for testing leaves me a bit breathless. We went to the UC Berkeley Psychology Clinic and, for almost nothing, received the most careful, caring, and comprehensive testing imaginable. It is definitely an option to explore. anonymous