Specific Learning Disorder and Learning Disabilities Testing
A learning disability, also referred to clinically as a Specific Learning Disorder (SLD), is a learning disorder in which an individual experiences difficulty with receiving, processing, and/or communicating information. Individuals with SLDs often have average or above average intelligence but have trouble processing information through typical learning methods because they see, hear, and understand things differently. SLDs can cause learning problems at school, hurt self-esteem, and may continue to have a snowball effect unless addressed early.
Diagnostically speaking, terms such as dyslexia (difficulty processing language/ reading), dyscalculia (difficulty with math), and dysgraphia (difficulty with writing) all describe common learning challenges. However, these terms are not official diagnoses in the current DSM. Similarly, while our psychologists can screen for auditory processing or visual processing difficulties, these are not specific diagnoses in the DSM at this time
Signs of a Learning Disability
in Children and Adolescents
The following are common characteristics that may indicate a learning disability is present:
- Trouble with spelling, learning the alphabet, rhyming words, or connecting letters to their sounds
- May make mistakes when reading aloud, repeating and pausing often
- May not understand what he or she reads
- Learns language late and has limited vocabulary
- Trouble breaking down spoken words into syllables and recognizing words that rhyme
- May mispronounce or misuse similar-sounding words
- Has trouble organizing what he or she wants to say, not able to think of the word he or she needs for a conversation
- Can't retell a story in order
- Doesn't understand the social rules of a conversation, like taking turns
- Trouble hearing slight differences between words
- Trouble understanding jokes, comic strips, sarcasm
- Messy handwriting or holds a pencil awkwardly
- Has difficulty understanding the concept of time
- Confuses math symbols and misreads numbers
- Struggles to express ideas in writing
- Trouble following directions, may not know where to begin a task
- Resists or avoids doing homework or requires significant assistance/ extra time to complete the task
While learning disabilities may persist to cause challenges into adulthood, with the right support and early interventions, individuals with learning differences can succeed in school and life.
Identifying Specific Learning Disabilities Through Assessment
It’s important to know that identifying a Specific Learning Disability in a clinical setting differs from the way the public school system determines a student’s eligibility for a learning disability classification, which then informs how they provide supports or interventions. Schools use classifications while clinical settings will make diagnoses. The public school system typically employs a multidisciplinary, tiered system of interventions before determining if a child meets criteria for an LD classification. Despite these differences, both methods allow schools to recognize a student’s learning needs and provide assistance or accommodations as their resources allow.
We Can Help with LD and Dyslexia Testing
At Wynns Family Psychology, we offer an IQ/Achievement testing package to determine if a learning disability is present. The data relies on assessing a child’s intellectual level and their academic achievement, along with rating scales providing data from parents and teachers. Parents may also desire to expand the testing to a Full Psychoeducational Evaluation to also assess for ADHD and other social, emotional, or behavioral concerns that may be impacting functioning at school or home. Parents are encouraged to share evaluation results with your child’s school and ultimately, a public school referral team will work together with you to determine the next steps in providing your child with necessary supports. Private schools often have their own special education processes as they are not governed by the same institutions as public schools. Parents may also find it helpful to have the testing psychologist attend an IEP or school meeting to participate in educational planning and discuss the child’s needs.