With the school year up and running for most students, September is typically the month where parents and students begin to settle in for the year. Classrooms are established, students’ schedules are solidified, and the novelty of a new school year is wearing off.
September is historically the slowest month for me for evaluations. Since 2018, when I first began offering neuropsychological evaluations, I have consistently seen fewer students in September than any other month of the year. This is true for ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning disabilities.
So, does this mean it is a good time for your child to schedule an evaluation or not? Why don’t parents schedule in September when there are likely more appointments available? Are some months better than others to have your child evaluated?
In today’s post, I want to examine some of the variables that go into the timing of an evaluation so you understand the best time of year to have your child evaluated.
Age of the Student
For many students, this variable does not necessarily come into play. However, for younger students, age can play a determining factor when deciding when to have an evaluation. The youngest age I will work with is six years old. There are a few reasons for this, but the main reason is that many of the assessments begin at age six.
Interestingly, I have received several inquiries from kindergarten parents in the last couple of months. My response to them is always the same; let’s wait until your child is six years old so we can administer all the assessments we need. Typically, that means Spring of the kindergarten year.
My evaluations rely heavily on teacher input. I want to understand what the student’s behavior is like at home and at school, which can help identify certain educational-impacting conditions. Consequently, I use several teacher report measures to gain insight into a student’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning at school.
Summer months make obtaining teacher input very difficult, as most teachers are on vacation and not likely to respond. Additionally, August and September can be difficult as well; many teachers simply do not know their students well enough at that point in the year to respond reliably. For these reasons, it is easiest to obtain teacher input from October to May.
For older students, especially, finding a 2-3 hour window during the day for an evaluation can be tricky. Many students are reluctant to miss school for that long, especially during the critical months of December and May when they are preparing for final exams and AP exams. Additionally, many students participate in extracurricular activities that can make missing school challenging.
In my experience, the months with the fewest academic conflicts are those earliest in the semester. August and January typically have relatively few high-stakes tests, and extracurricular activities may not be in full swing quite yet.
An academic schedule has several stretches of vacation that may or may not interfere with scheduling an evaluation. I actually work with a surprising number of students during Thanksgiving, Winter, and Spring breaks. These shorter vacation times also allow for teacher input, since we can usually get that prior to the break.
Summer break is also a popular time for an evaluation, as most students do not have to worry about school work during this time. However, as noted above, it can be very challenging to get teacher input during the summer. In these instances, I rely more on self-report and parent measures.
Perhaps the most influential variable when scheduling an evaluation is the clinician’s availability. There are certain months of the year that I will be booked out many weeks. And there are other times of the year that I can schedule a student the same week. If you are ok waiting a few weeks for an evaluation, then you’ll have more options. But if you need quick scheduling and turn around time with the results, you may want to consider one of the slower months.
With that in mind, I always keep a few slots open for “emergency” situations. If a family is in dire need of an evaluation, I will always find a way to schedule it.
Now that you understand the variables that go into scheduling, let’s look at the slowest and busiest times for evaluations and identify the best time of year for you to seek an evaluation.
September, December, and January are historically my slowest months for evaluations. During these three months, I’m typically only booked out a week or two.
August, May, June are by far the busiest months. I think the biggest reason these months are busiest is that parents are trying to get the evaluations completed prior to the start of the new school year and prior to the beginning of summer, when many families are out of town for long stretches. During these months, I’m usually booked out several weeks.
Ideal Time for an Evaluation
So, what months are the best and most convenient time for an evaluation? Considering all these variables, the ideal months for an evaluation are October, November, March, and April. These months allow for teacher input and also flexible scheduling. Additionally, these months allow time to implement specific strategies to help the student during the school year.
If your child is experiencing any social, emotional, behavioral, or academic difficulties in school, consider a neuropsychological evaluation. October is the perfect time to schedule, and you will have your results back on plenty of time to support your child.