Questions to Ask An Educational Consultant

by Dr. George Posner, CEP

Hiring an independent educational consultant is a major investment in your child’s future. Others have already written about the common mistakes parents make when choosing residential placements, one of which is to do it on their own (see especially Lon Woodbury’s article available online). Parents typically find their educational consultant through a friend or relative, a friend of a friend, a mental health professional, the admissions staff at a program/school, the internet, or a professional association. Oftentimes parents are given a list of several names of educational consultants from which to choose. The purpose of this article is to provide parents with a set of questions they can use to help them decide which consultant to hire. I have grouped these questions into the following topics: Credentials/Qualifications, Experience, Services, and the Placement Process.


Think about it. When you hire an educational consultant, you are planning on following the advice of a stranger regarding where to send your child for a significant period of time. Clearly, you need to be able to trust that individual. Part of trusting that person is knowing that he or she is qualified to give such advice. The consultant’s education and training, as well as any professional certifications and associations can begin to assure you that at least some standards have been met.


The breadth and depth of experience is another level of assurance regarding the consultant’s competence. Schools and programs are in a constant state of flux with staff changes, new programs springing up, and old programs changing in their effectiveness with certain children. Staying in touch with these changes and being able to discriminate amongst programs is one of the benefits of using a consultant. But staying up to date and knowledgeable requires a substantial investment of time by the consultant.


The consultant gives advice and guides parents through the placement process. It is important for parents to understand what specific services are offered and what they cost, so that there will be no surprises. Some consultants are more hands-on and are more accessible than others while the child is in a program/school, and the style of the consultant should match the parents’ expectations.

Placement Process

In order to trust a consultant’s recommendations, parents need to understand how the consultant arrived at them. The consultant can help educate the parents regarding the options, so that they can make rational decisions.

Not every question needs answering and I’m certain that there are other ones you will want to ask. However, this list is a first step to finding the best consultant for your family.

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