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Testing for Learning Disabilities

written by: Elizabeth Wistrom • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 8/2/2012

If a learning disability is suspected, there are certain tests that can help to confirm the diagnosis. Read on to learn more about common testing for learning disabilities.

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    Where to Start

    If a child is struggling academically and significantly behind their peers, it is very possible that they may have a learning disability. Students with this disability have the ability to be successful, but just can’t seem to do well in a typical classroom setting. Learning disabilities are defined as having a severe discrepancy between ability and achievement. The common areas where a learning disability can be seen are: reading, math and writing. So, if this is suspected, what does the testing involve? Testing for learning disabilities involves several things. Let’s take a look at what will be done first.

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    IQ

    The child will first be referred to a psychologist to be tested. The psychologist will typically perform an IQ test. IQ tests are used to help determine if the child has a learning disability. The assessment that is used is the Weschler Intelligence Scale.

    A full scale IQ will first be done. They will look to see if there is a discrepancy between their verbal IQ and their performance IQ. Students with learning disabilities will present with a discrepancy between these two areas. Subtests then will be administered in order to determine the areas of need such as reading comprehension, math computation, and written expression. This will help to assess the area in which the student may have a learning disability.

    An IQ test alone cannot diagnosis a learning disability, but it is used in conjunction with a lot of other assessments and information. This is usually where the testing will begin.

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    Observations

    After an IQ test is used, a lot of other information will be gathered, such as current grades, observations from parents, teachers, and other professionals. This will be done in order to get an accurate description of how the child performs both at school and at home as well. All of the student’s work and complete educational record will be evaluated to see if this has been a persistent problem. Learning disabilities do not happen overnight. It is a problem that has been with the child for a long period of time.

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    Medical History

    The student will also have to see their family doctor. The doctor will conduct a complete medical history in order to get an accurate description of the child’s developmental and physical health. The doctor will also conduct hearing and vision screening in order to help rule out that the problems may be caused by those areas. The doctor will evaluate the child’s development of fine and gross motor skills. They will also conduct a speech and language assessment.

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    Putting it All Together

    After all of the information has been collected, the entire team of professionals that has conducted the evaluations will get together in a meeting known as an MDE, Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation. All of the information and results of all the testing will be reviewed. The team will look at all of the information and come up with the accurate diagnosis.

    As you can see there is a lot of information that goes into testing for learning disabilities. By incorporating all of this information, the diagnosis of a learning disability can be confirmed. There is not a stand alone test that identifies this disability. All of this information will help to assure you that the results of the testing are accurate. From there, the student will be able to receive the appropriate education and services that they deserve.