Over 6.5 million children receive special education services each year in the U.S. As this number continues to rise, child and school psychologists are increasingly called upon to evaluate children and to recommend accommodations to meet the child's educational needs. But the process of evaluating children can be challenging, as it is often fraught with conflict between parents and school personnel. Even seasoned clinicians may have difficulty navigating the myriad legal, professional, and personal issues involved.

This book is a step-by-step guide describing how to perform an independent educational evaluation for children with special needs.

Chapters describe the suggested format and content of initial meetings with parents and school officials, the assessment and evaluation process, how to piece together the final report, and additional issues that arise after the final settlement, including testimony in due process hearings.

The authors also provide a full explanation of the applicable legal statutes regarding special education services, and the legal boundaries of the evaluator's responsibilities. Perhaps most importantly, they provide crucial suggestions for how evaluators can navigate conflict that often arises between parents and school officials, while remaining focused on providing the best possible education for all children.

Table of Contents


  1. Context and History of Special Education Evaluations
  2. Law, Ethics, and Competence
  3. Referral, Clinical Interview, and Psychological Assessment
  4. Concluding Evaluation and Feedback
  5. Final Report
  6. Presenting in Due Process Hearings and Postruling Interactions


  • Appendix A: Sample Independent Educational Evaluation Report
  • Appendix B: Independent Educational Evaluation: Parents' Agreement
  • Appendix C: Summary of Independent Educational Evaluation for Parents
  • Appendix D: Common Mistakes to Avoid While Conducting Independent Educational Evaluations



About the Authors

Author Bios

David Breiger, PhD, received his doctorate in developmental and clinical neuropsychology from the University of Houston in 1986. He is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, Seattle and the director of the Neuropsychological Consultation Service at Seattle Children's Hospital.

His clinical interests for the past 26 years have been the neuropsychological assessment of children and helping children adjust to neurodevelopmental and neurocognitive challenges. He supervises psychology postdoctoral fellows, psychology residents, and psychology graduate students. He teaches the Intellectual Assessment graduate courses in the University of Washington's Department of Psychology.

Dr. Breiger was awarded the Outstanding Supervisor award from the University of Washington of Psychology Internship Program.

His research is currently focused on the relationship between brain development and neuropsychological functioning in children who have been treated for brain tumors. He has coauthored a number of articles and book chapters.

Kristen Bishop, PsyD, is a recent graduate entering the field of clinical psychology. Her dissertation, "Creating Academic Recommendations for Children With an Autism Spectrum Disorder: Insights From Key Informants," explored how psychologists could improve their academic recommendations for children with an autism spectrum disorder.

Her professional interests include academic child assessment, collaborative work with school-based professionals, and conducting assessments and providing treatments for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Her interest in providing interdisciplinary assessment that best supports a child's treatment across settings including the home, school, and community can be seen in her clinical training and experience.

Dr. Bishop's training and experience include the completion of the Parenting Evaluation Training Program at the University of Washington and the University of Washington's Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities long-term trainee certificate. She will soon be beginning private practice work, including assessment and treatment services, through Eastside Psychological Associates in Washington State.

G. Andrew H. Benjamin, JD, PhD, ABPP, is the director of the Parenting Evaluation/Training Program at the University of Washington in Seattle as well as clinical professor of psychology and affiliate professor of law at the University of Washington.

While working with families engaged in high-conflict litigation and lawyers suffering from various mental health and drug abuse problems, Dr. Benjamin was named "Professional of the Year" by the Washington State Bar Association's Family Law Section. He was elected to serve as president of the Washington State Psychological Association, and later his colleagues there created an association award named after him for "outstanding and tireless contributions." He was honored by the Puyallup Indian Nation's Health Authority for serving as a "modern day warrior fighting the mental illnesses, drug-alcohol additions" of the people served by the Nation's program.

After being elected representative of Washington to APA's Council of Representatives for two terms, Dr. Benjamin was appointed the council's parliamentarian and served in that capacity for four terms. He has served as a member and chair of APA's Committee on Legal Issues and APA's Policy and Planning Board. He is the past president of APA Division 31 (State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs) and a member of the APA Board of Educational Affairs. APA conferred on him the Heiser Award in recognition of his record of public service and advocacy in numerous areas of professional activity.

Dr. Benjamin has published 59 peer-reviewed articles in psychology, law, and psychiatry journals. He is the coauthor of three books published by APA — Law and Mental Health Professionals; Family Evaluation in Custody Litigation: Reducing Risks of Ethical Infractions and Malpractice; and The Duty to Protect: Ethical, Legal, and Professional Considerations for Mental Health Professionals — and one book published by Sage: Ethics for Psychologists: A Casebook Approach. Two of his lectures about issues related to child custody are posted on YouTube.

Reviews & Awards

Unquestionably, this is the book I would recommend to any psychologist seeking to become an independent evaluator in special education cases. There are many take-away points which can be absorbed after a single reading and applied effectively many times over. In addition to wonderfully crafted narrative and the illustrative report, the authors included an appendix with a parent agreement form, summary of procedural logistics and list of common mistakes when performing evaluations. Thus, the book is instructive and pragmatic, the best of both worlds, in a compact, engaging, and highly readable text.
—New England Psychologist

This worthwhile volume was written by experts in neuropsychology, educational evaluation, and parent training. It would be a valuable tool for any clinician providing independent educational evaluations.