By Elizabeth Kirk, PRAISEnyc

I have seen this story play out dozens of times: A parent of an NYC DOE special needs kid realizes that their child requires a neuropsychological evaluation.  The parent makes a few calls and then has a panic attack as the average NYC neuropsychological evaluation ranges from \$5000 to \$10,000. When, as a single mom, I realized that the price tag for neuropsychological evaluations (with the clinician of my choice) for all three of my special needs sons was going to top \$19,500, which I did not and would never have, I knew that I had to figure out another way.

The big secret is that the DOE does, in fact, fund neuropsychological evaluations. It’s actually their responsibility to fund them.  According to special education law, IDEA refers to district funded evaluations as IndependentEducational Evaluations or IEEs. There are many roads to a funded neuropsychological evaluation.  For this post, we’ll explore the simplest road.

• For public school students, email or fax your child’s school principal (not the assistant principal, a teacher or the person that you feel most comfortable with at the school) and cc the school’s DOE school psychologist (if you know who that is).
• For private school or charter school settings, email or fax your child’s CPSE/CSE Chairperson.  A list of CPSE/CSE Chairs with their pertinent information is here.
• In the email or fax, include your child’s name and their DOE student ID#, date of birth and school. Explain your reasoning for why your child requires a neuropsychological evaluation. You might say, “My child is failing English or math”, “my child has a deep aversion to reading or doing homework”, and so forth. PUT IT IN WRITING and SAVE THE PRINTED EMAILS OR FAX RECEIPT IN A BINDER.   With the DOE, always, always keep a paper trail. That running collection of documented evidence is utterly critical if it comes to a legal confrontation.  If it is not in writing, with the DOE as with most bureaucracies, then it never happened.
• The DOE should then ask for your written consent to evaluate.  You must respond in writing with your signed consent. Send your consent by email or fax.  From that moment the DOE has 60 days to complete the evaluation. DOE should then either evaluate first OR issue an AA-2 voucher. If the DOE misses the 60-day requirement, then you have the right to an AA-2 or reimbursement for your own evaluation (see below), however, before fronting funds for an evaluation please consult with an attorney or advocate.  Parents will almost always have to file for an impartial hearing for reimbursement.  There are plenty of ways that a parent might misstep and that might lead to losing some or all of their reimbursement.
• If the DOE decides to evaluate first, you must let them.  If after DOE evaluates and you believe that a) the DOE psychoeducational evaluation is not comprehensive or b) you have another valid reason to disagree with DOE’s evaluation, you must say so in writing, by email or fax.  While the DOE does have the right to ask you what your reason is for disagreeing with their evaluation, you should know that the law (IDEA) does not obligate the parent to give a reason.  When the DOE has asked me for my reasoning, I declined NICELY and reminded the DOE that was my legal prerogative (because I didn’t want to get into an argument with them or give them the option to go back and fix their clearly insufficient evaluation).
• DOE has only two choices at this point.  They must issue the AA-2 voucher for a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation with the provider you have chosen or they can take you to an impartial hearing to defend their evaluation.  Usually, the voucher will be issued as it is cheaper and easier for the DOE to do so than to fight it legally as Impartial Hearings reportedly cost far more than settling. If the DOE does decide to defend their evaluation, however, and you don’t have an attorney, please call Advocates For Children or IncludeNYC for assistance as having an attorney or trained advocate is very helpful indeed at these hearings.
• Once you have the AA-2 voucher, call and make an appointment with a clinician that accepts the DOE voucher.  Confirm with the clinician that they will accept the voucher.  You can find evaluators that accept vouchers here, scroll down to find the neuropsychologists.
• As with any clinician, there are good ones and not -so- good ones.  Do your research.  The law allows for only one IEE per year so it’s serious you do it once and WELL.  I have seen evaluations that are not thorough or even that are written in such a way as to favor the DOE over the child’s needs.  Facebook has several groups such as Brooklyn Special Kids, Manhattan Special Kids and Queens Special kids where you can search evaluators’ names and read about other parents’ experiences. You may also post and ask if anyone has any opinions on your chosen provider.
• If a parent wishes to pursue a clinician that does not accept an AA-2 voucher or wants to seek reimbursement for their out-of-pocket neuropsychological evaluation, that is possible. In certain circumstances, the DOE will reimburse for evaluations without a hearing, but those parents who want to try this route should definitely hire an attorney or an advocate to guide them.  (The fees, in any case, will be a fraction of what a NYC neuropsychological evaluation will cost!) If the DOE refuses to reimburse, then a hearing may be necessary.