If you type the phrase "Educational Consultant" into Google, you will get over eight million results. That's a pretty daunting place to start a search when you need to find the best individual to help your student achieve success. Whether you're looking for a consultant to help you navigate the maze of special education requirements and Individualized Education Plans or you're a student from another country trying to find the best college in the United States for your field of study, a good educational consultant can be the difference between success and frustration.
So, once you've narrowed down your selection from eight million to a few consultants that you are considering, how do you make that final decision?
Below are five things to consider when trying to find the right consultant.
Licensed Education Psychologist
A licensed educational psychologist is typically a master's level practitioner who is licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). This is a license that is unique to California. The requirement for an LEP is a master's degree and proof of 3 years of working in the educational system. When you find that someone is a licensed educational psychologist, you know that they have the experience and education to handle the multitude of challenges you may be faced with during the consultation process.
Experience Working With Schools and Individuals
Working with your student's school is a critical part of most issues that require involvement from an educational consultant. Seeing that this is such an important part of the overall process, it's best to find a consultant who has worked in schools as a counselor or school psychologist. When you are researching or interviewing a consultant, ask them wherever they have this type of experience. If they do it means that they most likely have in-depth familiarity of all steps of the process from both sides of the equation, what tests and judgments are best, what schools look for in certain situations, etc.
Experience in area of need / specialty – (admissions, IEP, Special Education, etc.)
One of the first questions you should ask a prospective consultant is: "Can you give us an overview of your experience dealing with __________________?" Then you can ask them to take through the process step-by-step so you can get an understanding of what you're up against. This will serve two purposes: 1.) it will educate you to the process; and 2.) it will give you some insight into the consultant's true understanding of how things will play out. If they can take you through the millions off the top of their head without hesitation, it usually means it's not their first rodeo.
Knowledge of Testing / Assessments
Whether you're trying to get into a top US college or you need to find out if your student qualifies for special educational accommodations under state or Federal laws, assessments are a large part of the process. Sometimes the consultant will be administering these assessments and other times that they will be reviewing the results of evaluations administered by someone else. You want to make sure that your consultant knows the testing scenarios for your particular area of need backward and forward. To determine this, ask them to describe the testing procedures and briefly explain what each test is trying to determine.
Good Chemistry with Your Student
Make sure the consultant and your student have a good enough relationship to be able to make continuous progress. They do not have to be best friends, but you want to make sure the relationship is strong enough that your student will feel comfortable sharing information about their educational limitations and frustrations. Open communication with your consultant is important to a successful outlet. Ask your student what he / she thought of the consultant during the initial meeting.
There are a lot of excellent consultants available for a variety of educational challenges. The above list is by no means exhaustive, but it can help you quickly identify consultants who are experienced, knowledgeable and have the disposition to work well with your student through the process.