Rita Rispoli

Educational Therapist

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I don’t live in the Monterey area. Can you work with me from a distance?

Answer: Consultation services can be provided through the use of telephone and fax. Assessment and remediation services are conducted only at the office. For out-of- town clients, the office provides assistance to locate lodgings and other amenities for your stay on the Monterey Peninsula.

Q: Would I be working with you or an assistant?

Answer: This is a small private practice with an emphasis on the individual. Services are caring and personalized. I work directly with clients and families; they are never handed off to an assistant.

Q: How is a learning disability measured?

Answer: Currently, a learning disability is diagnosed when these two factors are present:

  • evidence of a deficit in processing (such as memory, visual processing, auditory processing, visual-motor integration);
  • difference between how a person is expected to perform, based on their measured ability, and their actual academic skills in reading, math and written language. When this difference is serious enough to be statistically significant, it is referred to as a severe discrepancy between ability and achievement. (This discrepancy must not be the result of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages.)

In order to measure these areas, certain types of tests are given. These individually administered tests are called norm-referenced tests.

Q: Can a learning disability be diagnosed using a computer?

Answer: “Testing” by computer does not produce the standard scores described above. Use of computer-based testing for learning disabilities would be considered a screening or informal testing, at best. Professional diagnosis of a learning disability is made through a process known as assessment, which includes a developmental history and other factors, in addition to testing.

Q: Can computers be used to test for learning problems?

Answer: Responsible professional clinicians use computers as a tool. Using computers as a primary method of testing for a learning problem deprives the client because it limits the clinician's observations needed for the therapeutic process. These valuable observations include: how a person processes what they see or hear; strategies the person uses to meet the demands of the task; self-corrections the individual makes. When computers are used to test for learning problems, the child is usually placed on a matching computer program for remediation, then retested again later using the same format. (This is a version of what is known as “teaching to the test.”) The child can become an expert in the content of that software program, but there may be little or no tie-in with classroom curriculum and the child may lack the ability to transfer that new knowledge to real-life learning situations.

Q: How long does it take to complete testing at your office?

Answer: Testing usually takes two or three two-hour sessions.

Q: What is testing like?

Answer: This type of testing is different than the tests most people remember taking at school. Many of the tests are presented on easels and require a verbal, rather than a written, response. A full assessment includes measurement of memory, auditory processing and visual processing, as well as other areas indicated by the client's learning issues/symptoms. There are also measures of traditional reading, math and writing skills.

During testing sessions, parents are welcome to observe their child through the one- way glass in the testing room.

Q: How soon will the report be finished?

Answer: Reports (which are usually eight to twelve pages long) take three to four weeks to complete. Reports are presented at an interpretive conference where the results and recommendations are explained and questions answered.

Q: Do colleges accept your testing?

Answer: Yes. In addition, testing procedures and assessment reports meet Educational Testing Service (ETS) guidelines.

Q: Do schools accept your testing?

Answer: California state law requires that school districts consider the results of independent assessments. Reference: California Education Code section 56329 (b) and (c).

Q: My child receives special ed services at his public school. Why would he need an educational therapist?

Answer: He might not. Educational therapists encourage their clients to avail themselves of no- cost assessment and services to which they are entitled through their school districts.

Parents often give these reasons for seeking services from an educational therapist: the child did not meet state qualifying guidelines for special education services at school; parents want additional help for their child; parents want one-to-one services for their child; parents would like their child to receive personalized help after the regular school day; the special education services at school focus on completing assignments in the regular classroom and the parent sees a need to address the disability area and reteach or reinforce deficient skills.

Q: What happens in an educational therapy session?

Answer: In a remediation session, the educational therapist works with a client on activities chosen especially for that client based on needs reflected in the formal and informal assessments. The educational therapist, who keeps extensive notes on each session, provides activities with an appropriate level of challenge and watches the client's response to those activities to assess their approach to the task and how they process information. This is a key element of progress during treatment.

Q: I can't afford regular educational therapy sessions for my child. What options do I have?

Answer: Meeting with an educational therapist for a consultation can help clarify what your child's needs are. The educational therapist can meet with you and your child, review your child's assessment reports and work samples and help you devise a learning or behavior management plan to use at home.

If you are unable to afford regular sessions, or live too far away from the office of an educational therapist, he or she might show you techniques to use at home and may recommend certain books or materials. (This may be especially helpful if you are horneschooling your child and want to learn new techniques to help his/her learning problem.) The educational therapist can help you plan the best way to deal with your child's learning difficulties.

Rita Rispoli