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Clinical Assessment


Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) provides support the the academic, behavior and social/emotional needs of the child. The support provided is a system of intervention based on tiers for levels of support and includes progress monitoring. This leads to a Response to Intervention (RTI) program. This infographic is a helpful guide to explain how teachers use MTSS and RTI. 

Exclusionary Factors

Exclusionary factors prohibit a student from qualifying for a specific learning disability (SLD). These contributing factors can cause academic weaknesses or deficits and are noncognitive, external to the student ,or are a result of a condition other than SLD. These include visual, hearing, motor disability, emotional disturbance, intellectual disability, cultural factors, environmental or economically disadvantaged, and limited English proficiency.

Referral Process

A referral to special education occurs when a student continues to struggle after being provided support services. This process includes identification, parental notification and consent, evaluation, ARD meeting, special education determination, IEP written and agreed upon by participants, special education services implemented, progress monitoring of goals and reported to parents. 

Full and Individual Evaluation (FIE)

A full and individual evaluation (FIE) is comprehensive and gathers information from multiple sources regarding the student. The reason for referral begins the FIE. Following reason for referral, evaluation procedures are explained. The FIE includes health screenings, vision/hearing screenings, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status (including LEP information and LPAC recommendations), adaptive behavior, and motor abilities (occupational and/or physical therapy). Observations from teachers, case managers, parents and others included in the education of the student are included. Information from parents and teachers are included and considered in the evaluation process. Recommendations for instruction are collaborated and written into an FIE. Technology needs, assurances, eligibility statements, disability statements and disability reports also comprise the FIE.


To view an example of an FIE I have completed, click below. 




The reason for evaluation in this example was to fulfill requirements for a graduate level course. However, this FIE follows the format of a professional report that can be seen at an ARD meeting. The background information and health evaluations were considered and included. Home language was reviewed and information recorded. At the time of the report, the student's academic reports were available for viewing, but not released for publishing. It was determined that there was no need for assistive technology for the student to access the general education curriculum. Social/Behavioral evaluation revealed a well-adjusted second grader with appropriate relationships. Behavioral observations during testing was documented. Adaptive behavior was determined to not be a concern. In this example, I used the Woodcock Johnson IV (WJ-IV) Tests of Cognitive Abilities and the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, Third Edition (KTEA-3) to assess a second grade student. Though this student did not qualify for special education services, as you read through the evaluation you will notice she had some low scores on her assessments. Her lower scores did not seem to affect her abilities in the classroom. Parents and teachers did not report any concerns with learning. It was noted to keep this child on watch in case she begins to struggle with learning some time in the future. It was also noted in her observation that she was tired and had reported a headache after the end of testing. An evaluation summary was provided as well as recommendations for her general education teacher in the areas she struggled with during assessment. At the end of the FIE, it is to be noted that assurances for parents are included in the report.

Assessment Process

  • Data Collection - Background information is gathered regarding the student. This should be from multiple sources and include observations, school records, teacher reports, and parent intakes.

  • Analysis/Evaluation - An analysis is conducted from data collection to find patterns in the student's history. Evaluation includes assessments administered by trained professionals in a variety of areas, dependent upon the needs of the student. For instance, assessments can include cognitive, achievement, behavioral, physical, speech, psychological, emotional, language, perceptual, as well as medical. After analysis and evaluation, the data is reviewed to determine eligibility for special education services. 

  • Determination/Recommendations - A review of the data collected and results of assessments determine if there is the suspected presence of a disability. If it is determined that there is a suspected disability, recommendations for placement of the student as well as interventions are provided. These recommendations are to be individualized and considered after present levels of performance are reviewed.

Informal vs. Formal Assessments

Informal assessments are typically qualitative in nature. Student performance is not measured by a score of numbers or against a rubric. There is no standard grading criteria. Informal assessments can be individualized and often involve observation and subjective results. Other examples of informal assessments include writing samples, questionnaires, presentations and demonstrations.

Formal assessments are typically quantitative in nature, meaning that they are scored from a grading system with numbers. These assessments are given to each student and every question is graded the same way. It is not individualized. Some examples of formal assessments include standardized tests, achievement tests, and criterion-referenced tests.

Adaptive Behavior

Adaptive behavior involves skills needed to adapt to one's environment pertaining to conceptual, social, and practical life skills. Conceptual skills include reading, number skills, telling time, handling money, and communication skills. Social skills refer to getting along with others and maintaining relationships with others. Practical life skills include daily skills like sitting, standing, walking, talking, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and going to school. Adaptive behavior skills are considered when evaluating a student for special education services. Formal assessment in this area includes norm-referenced tools such as interviews or questionnaires to obtain information from parents and/or teachers about the functions of daily living skills of the student as it applies to home or school. The results are scored and interpreted by trained professionals. Adaptive behavior assessments administered by trained professionals are also administered and reflect scaled scores, where the average score is 100 with a standard deviation of 15. This means that any score within 15 points below or above 100 is considered average or age appropriate. Subsequently, a score of 82 is below the standard deviation since it is 18 points below 100, and a score of 108 would be average since it falls within 15 points of 100. Adaptive behavior skills can be evaluated to determine the manifestation of specific behaviors and help develop behavior intervention. Another important use of adaptive skills assessment is to use in coordination with cognitive testing to determine if a student qualifies for an intellectual disability (in this case, a student would need to qualify for a cognitive deficit as well as at least two adaptive skills deficits). This serves to remind all involved that not all disabilities are academic related.

Second Language Learners Cautionary Steps

It is important to note that overrepresentation of second language learners in special education has become a practice in which we must avoid. It is imperative that educators are knowledgable of the obstacles second language learners experience and be culturally sensitive. Before a student is referred for special education, causes of deficits due to language must be ruled out as this is an exclusionary factor for SLD. If a second language learner is assessed for special education, it is imperative that the administrator of the assessment understand the implications of the language possibilities. The assessment should be administered in the language that the student is the most comfortable with, if at all possible. Diagnosticians should be knowledgable of the manuals provided for assessments and the recommendations given for second language learners.

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