Screening Adults for Learning Disabilities

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What is learning disability (LD) screening?

Screening is the first step in the process of gathering relevant information about an individual with a suspected learning disability. Screening does not determine whether or not the person has a learning disability. It may include observations,
informal interviews, the use of a written tool, and/or a review of medical, school, or work histories.

How is LD screening different from LD diagnosis?

An LD diagnosis is a formal assessment that determines the actual presence of a learning disability. LD screening is an informal process that shows whether there is a probability that the person might have an undiagnosed learning disability. Informal screening can be done by an advocate for the person with a suspected learning disability, but formal diagnosis must be done by a qualified professional who can evaluate learning disabilities.

Why should LD screening be done?

Adults who have struggled with school and work may have undiagnosed learning disabilities. Screening is a way for an advocate to better determine the probability of the suspected learning disability, and to help the person decide if he or she needs to continue with an LD diagnosis. Also, LD screening can identify areas of strengths and challenges that will help the person better understand why he or she has struggled in certain areas of life. Knowing one’s strengths can help
determine the best strategies and/or technology to use to succeed in school and work.

Observations

Observations may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Does the person show unexpected underachievement in some areas, but demonstrates at least average ability in other areas?
  • Does the person show signs of poor vision or hearing?
  • Does the person having problems in the following areas: reading (oral and silent), expressive language (writing, spelling, handwriting), or math?
  • Does the person exhibit social behaviors that can
    interfere with learning, working, or daily living?

Informal Interviews

Advocates who conduct LD screening may ask the person, in an informal discussion, some questions about their past successes and challenges. The answers may indicate past behaviors, events, or characteristics that are associated with adults who have learning disabilities. Typical questions may include:

  • Did you get special help in school?
  • Do any of your family members have problems learning?
  • Have you had difficulty getting or keeping a job?
  • Do you have problems with reading, writing, or math skills?
  • What do you enjoy most, and why?

Informed Consent and Confidentiality

Informed consent ensures that the person undergoing the screening process understands the purpose of the screening, who will conduct the screening, how the results will be used, and how confidentiality will be maintained. Individual screenings by advocates should include a signed consent which should include the following information:

  • The name of the screening instruments used
  • The interval of time for screening
  • The purpose of screening
  • Who will see the results
  • How the results will be used
  • Where the forms will be stored and for how long
  • The adult’s signature and date
  • The advocate’s signature

Screening Tools

There are a number of screening tools available for advocates to use with the person who may have an undiagnosed learning disability. Some of these tools require special training, while others are available online. Some tools are free; others require training and may have associated training costs.

It is important, however, to choose a screening tool that is designed for the appropriate age group. When conducted and reviewed appropriately, using the right screening tool can be a valuable step in determining the need to seek further advice and evaluation.
Screening tools should also be:

  • Inexpensive
  • Quick to administer, score, and easy to interpret
  • Narrow in purpose
  • Able to provide information in several areas, such as language, motor and social skills

LD Screening Follow-Up

Advocates should be familiar with follow-up resources for those whose screening indicates a strong possibility of a learning disability, especially if the lack of documentation is a barrier to completing educational and career goals. The appropriate next step is to locate a licensed diagnostician to complete a formal LD assessment. For more information about LD assessments, see the information page at Adults Learning Disabilities Assessment Process.

Resources

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Comments

  1. COLLEEN WALTERS says

    I have been trying to go back to school for the longest time each time I try I realize I can’t keep up with the class or have an understanding, was in a class today and I left because of me no grasping on to anything that was being said into class I do realize I have short term memory of things, studied for the citizenship test and can’t believed I failed I do know the answers but when its time to do so my mind went blank I’m a very slow learner I need some help please tell me where I can get the help to see how I can learn at the level I am now.

    • LDA of America says

      If you have current (within 3 years) documentation of a learning disability – which often includes the need for extra time to process information – you can request testing accommodations through your schools Disability Support Services office. You can find information about how to do that at https://ldaamerica.org/adult-learning-disability-assessment-process/. Once you have completed the evaluation, you can apply for testing accommodations when you register to take a test. You will also need to request accommodations for classes, so you should contact the school’s Disability Support Services office to talk with them about how to do that. There are several articles that will help you with that process at https://ldaamerica.org/category/post-secondary-options/.

  2. Deanna Benetz says

    I am a concerned mom of an 18 yr old. I have always wondered if he has some sort of learning disability or developmental disability. He was born premature at 31 weeks. We had people coming into our home when he was young and up to age of 6. Then it just stopped. I am concerned now that i am aging and he is a senior in high school that he will need some guidance in life once i am not able to help him. Is he to old to be evaluated, i don’t know where to begin to get him help. I just want to help him as much as i can and make sure that he will be ok and be able to succeed once i am gone. Please help.

    • LDA of America says

      It is NOT too late to have your son evaluated! There’s information about learning disability evaluations at https://ldaamerica.org/adult-learning-disability-assessment-process/. The information includes what an assessment entails, who can do the assessment and how to find affordable resources for testing, and questions to ask the evaluator before testing begins. If your son does not plan to go to college, be sure to check out the information about Vocational Rehabilitation Services that’s included with the resources on that page. They may be able to provide the assessment as well as help your son find appropriate employment opportunities based on his strengths. Let us know if you need more help as you start this process.

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