Well, it’s been a few months since I last posted…and a lot has changed during that time!  Late last spring, I decided to leave my principal job and pursue EdPsyched full-time.  And so far things have been going great!  There is a HUGE need for psychological services in Austin right now, and I’ve been keeping plenty busy conducting neuropsychological evaluations and providing academic mentoring.

Another big change over the summer is that unfortunately COVID is back.  It looked like we were almost back to normal earlier this summer, but the delta variant has taken over and thrown a wrench into everyone’s plans.  I have a kindergartner who started school last week, so I know firsthand how frustrating and scary it is to send our kids to school.  But things are going relatively well, and hopefully a child vaccine is on the way soon.

Now that we are back balancing the need for in-person services while considering the safety of our kids, I’m seeing an uptick in interest in remote evaluations.  I began offering such services during the start of COVID in Spring 2020, and to my surprise, I found remote evaluations quite effective.  In fact, even when COVID calmed down, I continued to see an interest in meeting virtually to assess for dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, anxiety, and others.

In today’s post I want to provide a list of reasons why you may consider a virtual evaluation for ADHD, dyslexia, or dysgraphia.  Admittedly this type of experience isn’t best for everyone.  However, you may find that you or your child prefer this environment for any number of reasons, including those listed here.

Ease of scheduling

This is probably the most appreciated aspect of virtual evaluations.  I can administer an evaluation remotely any time and from any place.  Additionally, there is a great amount of flexibility for clients to schedule.  I’ve conducted remote evaluations on weekends, in the evenings, and even during students’ study halls at school.  Having this flexibility allows us to get the evaluations down quickly and efficiently.

In most cases, I can schedule a remote evaluation within a few days of the initial contact by the family.  In contrast, many families report wait times of several weeks and even months for an in-person evaluation.

Reduced stress

Many of the clients I work with come to me for concerns of anxiety, among other things.  For younger children in particular, testing in an unfamiliar environment can lead to further feelings of anxiety, particularly if the office is too “clinical” feeling.  Recently I tested a middle-school child who experienced significant separation anxiety, and he was reluctant to leave his mother in the waiting room when it was time to test.

Not surprisingly, I’ve found that many children feel more relaxed in their own homes, as they have the typical comforts the are accustomed to.  Additionally, mom and dad can be there to reassure the child if necessary.  In my experience, offering these individuals the opportunity to test at home can lead to a more accurate assessment of their cognitive and academic abilities as they relate to ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia.

Wider reach

When I first began conducting evaluations, my services were pretty much limited to the Austin area.  Occasionally, I’d have a family willing to drive into the Austin area, but for the most part, I was serving a relatively small area.  Finding evaluation services in places like Austin, Dallas, and Houston is not too difficult; there are typically a sufficient number of evaluators to meet the demand.  However, I’ve encountered many families (and adults) in smaller towns that simply cannot find someone to conduct a neuropsychological evaluation.

A lot has changed with the ability to administer remote evaluations.  In the past year and a half, I have conducted evaluations for clients all over the state of Texas, including places like Dallas and Houston.  The remote nature of these evaluations have opened up a lot of opportunity for families to receive evaluations that otherwise would have to travel long distances to do so.  We are in an increasingly connected world, and this has been a huge benefit for families needing services.

Cheaper rates for families

The logistics and overhead involved in in-person testing requires more resources than a remote evaluation.  Office space in Austin is expensive, and many clinicians must factor that into the fees they charge for their services.  The price of evaluations ranges quite a bit from office to office, but for the most part they aren’t cheap.

When administering a remote evaluation, however, there is no overhead to consider.  There is no need to pay for office space, administrative support, gas for travel, etc.  Consequently, it’s much easier for clinicians to offer reduced rates for remote evaluations.  And that means the family saves money.

The use of technology

We are definitely in an unprecedented time in which students are increasingly comfortable with technology. For many students who participated in virtual learning the past year and a half, they found they actually learned more effectively online than in person due to the use of platforms such as Zoom and Google Meets.

Remote evaluations take advantage of this comfort.  When I administer a remote evaluation for ADHD, dyslexia, or dysgraphia, I want to make sure that the technology does not detract from the testing experience.  Additionally, it is imperative that the use of Zoom does not skew the results.  Many of the testing companies have adapted their materials to be used online.  This has made the testing experience not only valid but also enriching for many tech-savvy kids.  In many cases, kids feel more comfortable and confident in front of a computer than they do in front of a clinician.

It is important to remember that virtual learning has only recently become commonplace both in schools and at work.  Prior to COVID, very few parents would consider a virtual evaluation for their students suspected of ADHD, dyslexia, or dysgraphia.  However, a year and a half of experience has demonstrated these evaluations are not only effective but also comfortable for many kids.  If you are struggling to find a clinician to evaluate you or your child in-person, or if you resonate with the statements above, you may want to consider a virtual evaluation.