Why is Proper Diagnosis by a Qualified Professional Important?
In a large city, and even in some suburban towns, finding a clinician is easy. A quick internet search will yield a multitude of clinician’s offering assessments and counseling. However, it is important to make sure that the clinician is qualified to assess, diagnosis, and treat (or provide appropriate recommendations in the case of an assessment), the presenting problem(s). The same principle applies to school administrative staff when choosing professionals that can carry out job duties in a meaningful and productive way.
Performing psycho-educational assessments in the school setting is one of the job duties of a school psychologist. These professionals are highly trained on identifying students at-risk for learning, cognitive, or social/emotional difficulties, assessing these areas, and coming up with a comprehensive treatment plan that is carried out by a team. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school psychologists are able to qualify students who meet eligibility under one or more of thirteen specific categories, some of which include learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, other health impairment, autism, and multiple disabilities. Diagnosing or qualifying students requires collecting background information from both the student’s family and school records/teacher input, obtaining rating scales from both caregivers and teachers, and a direct assessment of the student’s skills. If a school psychologist is not highly qualified to identify, assess using these methods, and provide a comprehensive treatment plan, the student and their family ends up suffering. For example, imagine treating a student for a learning disability when they have extensive behavioral and/or social/emotional difficulties. How will they even use the strategies provided when these other difficulties get in the way of them succeeding? It is impossible to develop a comprehensive treatment plan and provide recommendations when someone is not qualified or properly trained to assess and diagnosis a multitude of different symptom presentations.
So what should individual’s look for when hiring a qualified professional? Check to see if that individual has experience with a specific population and in a particular setting. Experience may include supervised training or work experience. You would not want to hire someone to consult in a school setting or perform a psycho-educational evaluation when they never stepped foot into a K-12th grade school past their high school years. Same logic goes for finding a clinician, look for someone who has experience and qualifications to identify, assess, and treat a particular diagnosis or difficulty. Another, more obvious thing to look for is a degree in a particular area and certifications/licensure in that state. This tells you the individual went through an extensive process, including education, training, and an examination. Therefore, a certified school psychologist and a licensed psychologist would be highly qualified and trained to identify, assess, develop a comprehensive treatment plan, and even treat children/student’s when they are experiencing academic and/or social/emotional difficulties.