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Medical Diagnosis vs. Educational Verification
Autism is not diagnosed by a single medical test or a brief observation. It requires a combination of screening, surveillance, and subjective, comprehensive evaluation including clinical observations, parent interviews, developmental histories, psychological testing, and speech and language assessments. There are two distinct types of evaluations for autism, medical diagnosis and educational verification.
A medical diagnosis is based on clinical observation by a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP). Such a diagnosis is guided by criteria in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) and is based on a medical model that takes a child’s medical, behavioral, and communication status; family history; and developmental progress into account.
Purpose of Establishing a Medical Diagnosis
- Identify symptoms that impede day to day functioning in one or more life areas
- Guide Medical, Behavioral and Other Health treatments to alleviate symptoms and improve functioning
- Allow for Medicaid, Private Insurance and other 3rd party reimbursements to providers of services
- Necessary step for receiving a disability determination
Note: Children who receive a medical diagnosis will still require an educational verification to be considered eligible for special education programs.
Educational verification is a process conducted by a school district to determine special education eligibility and to address a student’s individual needs. A “multi-disciplinary team” (MDT) including the appropriate professionals and the parent(s) of a child follows the Nebraska Department of Education’s definition of autism (http://www.unl.edu/asdnetwork/documents/RULE-51-July-2014.pdf page 26). Evaluation is developed for each specific disability, but includes assessment of a child’s communication and language skills, behavior, and social-emotional development. By determining eligibility for special education, realistic instructional objectives and interventions can be developed; a measure of educational progress can be established; and information about the strengths and needs of the student and the environmental resources needed to support that student can be generated.
Purpose of Determining Special Education Eligibility
- Develop and design realistic instructional objectives and interventions
- Establish present levels of performance to measure progress
- Generate information about the strengths and needs of the student as well as strengths and needs of the environmental resources needed to support the student.1
1 Nebraska Department of Education: Nebraska Autism Spectrum Disorders NETWORK, “Educational Verification in Nebraska,” n.d. (1 December 2008)