58th Annual international conference / february 18-21, 2021 / new orleans, la

Save the Date!

What is the easiest way that an adult can become qualified under the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) in order to receive reasonable accommodations and services in work, school and licensing bureaus where taking standardized tests are required for licensing?

To request and receive job and/or testing accommodations, an adult must be diagnosed with a disability. For information about learning disability evaluations for adults, go to https://ldaamerica.org/category/assessment-evaluation/assessment-evaluation-for-adults/

Can a learning disability be diagnosed with help of MRI, CT scan and EEG by a neurologist?

No. However, some tests such as an MRI or CT scan may be helpful in diagnosing a traumatic brain injury or other neurological damage that may be at least part of the cause for a learning disability. Some researchers are exploring the possibility of using those types of tests as part of a learning disability diagnosis, but at this time, a learning disability can only be diagnosed with psychological testing, administered by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

I am currently attending a four-year college I have always felt as though I have trouble focusing and paying attention. What type of doctor will diagnosis my condition and what do I ask when I call them?

The first step would be to contact your family doctor and report your problems with focusing and paying attention. It may be that you have some level of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which can range from mild to severe. Most general practitioners can diagnose ADHD, and it’s usually the most inexpensive way to go.

There is an adult screening tool for ADHD developed by the World Health Organization here. You may want to print the document, fill it out, and see if it indicates a likelihood that you may have ADHD. If so, it would be helpful if you could take it with you when you visit your doctor.

A good resource for learning more about ADHD is www.chadd.org.

I have struggled with math all my life. What types of tests are used to diagnosis a math disability?

There are no specified tests in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the latest publication used to diagnose disorders. Rather, there is a list of diagnostic criteria that includes symptoms that have persisted for at least six (6) months, despite the provision of interventions that target difficulties with learning, including difficulty learning math.

That said, when a psychologist or psychiatrist completes a learning disability evaluation for someone who is having difficulty in the area of math, the evaluator will use a variety of tests to determine difficulties mastering all areas of math, including number sense, memorization of arithmetic facts, accurate or fluent math calculation and ability to reason with numbers. There are a number of standardized achievement tests that may be used as part of a math disorder diagnosis, but it is the diagnostician’s choice to determine which tests they choose to use during the evaluation. The diagnostician will also examine the person’s history of learning in all areas, not just in the area of math.

Can I be denied from getting assessed for a learning disability through my college?

Yes. Postsecondary educational institutions, such as colleges and universities, are not responsible for providing learning disability assessments for their students. It is the student’s responsibility to provide the current documentation needed to request instructional and testing accommodations. However, some colleges and universities offer learning disability assessment through their graduate psychology program on a financial sliding scale. The testing is conducted by graduate students in the psychology program, then the results are reviewed and signed by one of the licensed professors overseeing the program. This type of testing can be more affordable due to the sliding scale cost. Some colleges provide testing through a comprehensive, fee-based LD support program.

Also, your local Rehabilitation Services Agency (RSA) (http://rsa.ed.gov/people.cfm, click on “State Agencies/Contacts”) may be able to conduct a free learning disability evaluation as part of their intake procedure that your college will accept as the documentation they need to grant you instructional and testing accommodations. Your RSA office would have to first determine your eligibility for their services, which is usually determined in an initial interview with an RSA counselor. Not all state RSAs offer the assessment as part of intake, so you would need to discuss that during your initial interview.

For more information about learning disabilities and postsecondary requirements, go to https://ldaamerica.org/category/post-secondary-options.

Does someone with a documented learning disability need to be retested at any point in order for that diagnosis to be considered current/relevant?

Learning disability documentation is considered current if the testing was completed within the last five (5) years. Sometimes that 5-year limit can be waived, but it depends on the age of the person, how long it has been since testing, any major life changes since the time of testing, and the reason for submitting the documentation. Once the documentation has passed the 5-year mark, it is generally up to the reviewing school or organization to determine whether or not the report should be updated.

Does a learning disability diagnostic report need to be specific about the types of learning disabilities one has?

Yes. Learning disability evaluations should include a list of all diagnosed disabilities. If the evaluations were completed within a school district, the specific educational diagnoses will be listed. If completed by someone outside of the school district, the report will include the corresponding Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) Axis Codes. However, some evaluations conclude that the person has LD-NOS (Learning Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified). The LD-NOS category is a broad, catch-all category for people with notable learning difficulties that affect education and/or work, but do not fit the criteria for some other category.

Are you ever too old to get tested for a learning disability?

Generally speaking, the answer is no, you’re never too old. However, as you approach your 70s, 80s and 90s, there are other factors that impact cognitive processes such as difficulty with short-term memory. Those other factors sometimes make it difficult for the evaluator to tell if the problems learning are from a learning disability or from the process of aging. One question to ask would be, “How long have cognitive processing issues been a concern?” If this is a life-long concern rather than a new one, chances are that it is not related to the aging process. However, if it is a new concern, it is more likely linked to the aging process. Another question to ask would be, “Why does this person need a learning disability evaluation?” If the person is still working and needs job accommodations, it may be necessary to obtain the evaluation and documentation needed to request accommodations on the job. If, however, the person wants to determine the presence of a learning disability out of curiosity – and not for job or testing accommodations – it would be wise to weigh the cost of the evaluation against the need to know.

How often do you need to be re-tested for learning disabilities?

You don’t have to be retested unless you need documentation for specific accommodations.  If that is the case, there may be different criteria for how current the documentation is depending on who you are requesting the accommodations from.

High-stakes testing agencies usually require LD documentation to be current within the past 5 years.  Many employers may not be concerned about how current the documentation is.  Large companies would probably adhere to the 5-year rule; small companies may not.