As of 2019, approximately 7.1 million public school students (14%) received special education services due to disabilities that impact their ability to keep academic pace with their neurotypical peers. The early identification of special needs and consistent support of individualized instruction are imperative for these students to succeed, and educational diagnosticians play a crucial role in the process.
What Is an Educational Diagnostician?
Diagnosticians do more than simply administer tests for assessment. Their role in special education development is much more multi-faceted. They are trained to notice, diagnose and address some of the most common learning disabilities that affect students’ chances at success. Their responsibilities include:
- Reviewing academic records
- Obtaining and analyzing information from teachers and parents
- Administering assessments
- Conducting observations
- Evaluating data
- Monitoring progress
Through this multi-pronged process, diagnosticians determine if a child has any learning disabilities or other conditions that may impact learning. They document their findings in Full and Individual Evaluation (FIE) reports and then use the collective information to determine the extent of a student’s need for special education services.
From Assessment to Individualized Education Plan to Implementation
Perhaps most critical is diagnosticians’ use of data to create appropriate individualized education programs. Educational diagnosticians are professionally trained to analyze the collected information and create a comprehensive plan for each student.
Diagnosticians work alongside teachers, parents and administrators to create either an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- IEP plans address the specific needs of students with specific learning disabilities, including special education and related services, as well as recommended accommodations and modifications to the student’s curriculum and learning environment.
- A 504 plan is for students who do not have a specific learning disability protected under IDEA and do not qualify for an IEP. These plans are designed to remove barriers and provide educational support for students with disabilities as they learn alongside their peers.
Special education plans include input from a host of specialists including speech-language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, school psychologists, counselors and social workers. Educational diagnosticians must maintain open communication channels with assessment personnel, translate the assessment data and work to best determine how these plans should evolve over time as students progress.
Diagnosticians may also be responsible for ensuring the implementation of those plans with fidelity. In addition, classroom management counts as one of the top skills of an educational diagnostician, as they must frequently conduct in-service training and professional development for school staff, review teaching materials and methods and observe direct instruction.
Educational diagnosticians play a vital role in every step of the special education process. From initial assessment and planning to implementation, evaluation and enforcement, the diagnostician is present and active in almost every aspect of special education. Their niche skills and training make them a critical member of any special education team.