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 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.


LDA encourages the distribution of this information. Please provide appropriate credit if portions are cited. Information may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale.

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  1. I have some advice for people viewing this page that are considering getting tested because they need help, but don’t know if they should…PLEASE, IF YOU HAVE INSURANCE, DO IT!!

    I’m 23 years old. I have had pretty severe ADHD since I was 6 years old. I took Adderall throughout elementary and some of middle school. By the time I got to High School, I didn’t take my medicine anymore, because I thought I had outgrown my ADHD because math was really the only subject that I struggled with (only because of a comorbid condition). All was great until I got to college…the coursework was no longer easy. The information didn’t come easy to me, so I was required to study – which I found EXTREMELY difficult to do. Also, it was my first experience away from home, and I found that my coping and organizational skills were TERRIBLE. Because of all of this, I went to my school’s “Academic Support Center” and spoke with a counselor there and explained that my grades (and roommates) were suffering because I just couldn’t perform in class or study like I felt that I should be able to. They were confident that I was suffering from a learning disability, so they referred me to a local psychiatrist for testing. The overall testing process included a personal interview involving medical, personal, educational , and family history, followed by a series of memory/cognitive/intelligence tests. This process took a few hours, but within a week or so, the psychiatrist had written an entire report about my condition, including tables with results from the tests that were performed. The last page of the report was a conclusion where I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD – Combined Type. This section also included a recommendation that I am given a private room for testing as well as 50% additional time on all tests and exams. I was embarrassed to use the accommodations at first, so all I did was take the Adderall…and my grades still suffered. The following years, however, I took advantage of the accommodations that I was given (despite the judgment I received from classmates), and my grades GREATLY improved. Over time, my GPA was able to heal, and I accomplished a great deal more. I am proud to say that because of the Learning Disability screening, a lot of dedication, and a great academic support system, I was able to graduate with honors in engineering. Deciding to get tested for LDs was the best decision I ever made. I still take medicine for the ADHD to-date.

  2. Samual Schoonover says:

    I was born 2 months premature at birth was born with my cord around my neck and was born dead at birth. I spent 17 weeks at a child hospital.and was born with bronchial asthma and learning disabilities.from k- 11 grade I took resource room cause I could not learn like normal kids did.I space out all the time .also get upset easy when I can’t learn something .my sight gets fuzzy sometimes .and I can’t set for long periods or stand either cause it bugs me to do so.I’m 43 yrs old male and can’t keep a job now cause I get easy upset cause I can’t get things my legs puff up when I stand longer than 6 hours

  3. I know I have a learning disability I struggle with it everyday I was held back every year in elementary and junior high I think they only passed me to the next grade because they couldn’t help me I wasn’t in special education I was teased a lot and it made me angry and act out I’m 30 years old now and I am ashamed I have a 9 year old and when he comes to me for help with his homework I can’t even help him I’m depressed and I don’t know what to do it hurts and I cry a lot because I just don’t get it even as an adult I don’t know can someone help me

    • LDA of America says:

      The more you know about yourself and whether or not you have a learning disability, the more confidence you’ll have, and more success as well. If you have not had a complete evaluation done, you might consider doing that (see information at The process of evaluation will identify your strengths and your challenges, and the diagnostician can help you understand how to use your strengths and how to accommodate your challenges. That knowledge can be empowering. If you find that you do have a learning disability, and you need help finding the right job, contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation office. Find information about that agency at They help people with disabilities find jobs that match their strengths, and provide counseling to help you better understand your disability and how it affects your life. They may be able to help you get started in a job that involves working with wood or even clay. Also, consider using assistive technology to help you with everyday tasks, organization, etc. There’s information about that at and at There’s also a great app-finder to help you find free/cheap apps that can help a lot at You may be able to find technology that will help you to help your 9-year-old with homework, too. Chances are that your child will enjoy helping you explore the possibilities as well as help you learn how to use the technology!

  4. Kelly Young says:

    I am a 53 year old female with ADD. I am a 9th grade lateral entry provisional licensed special ed teacher in the area of occupational preparation,teaching job readiness skills. I have often wondered if I have a learning disability in math.I have to take the Pearson General Curriculum exam which includes a mathematics sub test in order to get licensed. I have struggled with math all of my life and took the most basic math I could get by with and still struggled. Math problems, especially equations and word problems begin floating off the page and looks like a foreign language. The content of this test is extremely difficult for most who have math weaknesses but at my age and having no significant knowledge of math
    is a recipe for disaster. One of the math teachers has bee helping me some but after the session is done and I go back and try to do the same problems, I have forgotten everything. I will not be able to pass this test therefore I’ll not be able to keep my job despite the fact that I am not a math teacher. If I were to be screened for an LD in math and have a diagnosis, are there any protections for me regarding my future being dictated by a math exam? BTW, IminN. C. Thanks.

    • LDA of America says:

      If you decide to undergo an assessment process to see if you have a learning disability in the area of math, that will no doubt answer some of your questions about yourself regarding strengths and challenges, but is no guarantee that you would be eligible for testing accommodations. As a person with a diagnosed learning disability, you would have the right to request testing accommodations, but you would not necessarily be approved for those accommodations. The decision to grant any requested accommodations would be made by the testing agency, in this case, Pearson VUE. According to the testing website at, “All timely and complete alternative testing arrangements requests and accompanying documentation are reviewed on a case-by-case basis upon receipt. In some cases, the submitted documentation may not be sufficient to make a determination regarding the requested alternative testing arrangement(s) or may not support the requested alternative testing arrangement(s). Additional information or diagnostic test results may be needed. Your request form and supporting documentation will be kept confidential to the extent required by law. Some alternative testing arrangements may be accommodated at selected sites only…. Most examinees will be contacted regarding the resolution of a request for alternative testing arrangements within three weeks after the request form and all required documentation have been received. When your request for alternative testing arrangements has been resolved, you will be contacted by email regarding the resolution and given important information about scheduling your test appointment.” You’ll have to upload the request form at and wait for their response. You must be registered to take the test before you submit the request for accommodations, but don’t schedule the test until you get notification of approval (or denial) of requested accommodations. If you decide to undergo an LD assessment to see if you would be eligible to request testing accommodations, please read the information at Typical accommodations for a learning disability in the area of math may include extra time and/or the use of a calculator for the entire math test. If you also submit current documentation of your AD/HD, you may also want to request frequent breaks during testing. If you decide to request accommodations ONLY due to your AD/HD and not undergo the LD assessment process, you may be eligible for extra time, a private room for testing, and frequent breaks. The test may include a built-in calculator for the entire math test anyway. You will need to have current AD/HD documentation to make the accommodation request.

    • Kelly Young: I hope you were able to get an assessment, if you decided to do so!

      I have some experience on the subject of Pearson VUE accommodation!

      I was diagnosed with Adult Combined Type ADHD during college. I was an engineering student, and senior year it was a graduation requirement to attempt to take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, which is a 6-hour long standardized computer-based exam.

      Needless to say, I was TERRIFIED of this test and I knew I wouldn’t have a chance of passing it without some accommodations.

      Background: I was granted accommodations for all exams and test that I took in college because of an LD assessment and a psychiatrist’s recommendations based on that assessment. I was granted a private room and 50% extra time on each test/exam.

      Because of the accommodations I had at school, I assumed it would be easy to be granted extra time and a room to myself for this exam, too. This turned out to NOT be the case. I applied for accommodations using their standard form, and attached my diagnosis and recommendations page directly from the report I was given from the LD assessment, as well as a letter of recommendation from one of the academic couches from my college – which stated how much my performance has improved due to these accommodations. I though “how on earth with this much documentation can they legally deny my request”.

      I was CRUSHED when this request got denied.

      Going into my second try, I was much less confident. I was convinced that I was just going to have to struggle through it and face that I was probably only going to be able to finish half of the test if they make me take it like everyone else. I didn’t even know what other information I could POSSIBLY provide for them.

      The second time I attempted the accommodation, I submitted the same attachments as last time, except I added (to my great horror and embarrassment) a note that my mom wrote and sent to me to attach which stated (essentially – not word for word) how I have ALWAYS struggled with ADHD, and that I would do fine on their test given extra time and space with no distractions, but they were setting me up for failure if I can’t have any accommodations.

      I couldn’t believe my eyes…this time, my request for 50% extra time and a private testing room was APPROVED!! (I guess it wasn’t so embarrassing after all)

      So, TLDR: I guess the keys (at least for me) to getting accommodations are:
      1) Learning Disability Assessment by a Psychiatrist so that you can include their recommendations for best performance – AND an official diagnosis helps.
      2) Add a personal touch to the request – proving to them that you really do struggle with your condition. (this can be from yourself or a family member)

      P.S. I had to travel a bit to use my accommodations because my local testing facility didn’t offer an extra room. But….I passed, and I used all but 15 minutes of my extra time 😉

  5. Ruth mavu says:

    hi am Ruth I am 40 years old am from African Kenyan, I have a problem with reading and writing ,even sometimes I can not write or Read a message .I really need your help… I need to know how to read and write and get a good job.

  6. I struggled through school up until they put me in special classes in high school which I really resented but I could not pass mainstream classes because they get harder in high school but even before that I was assigned special assignments and was in the dummy classrooms. I have been unemployed moat of my adult life because it is hard passing an interview first of all but when I was hired I could not learn things quick enough and got fired. It takes me extra longer to learn things and employers do not have the time to wait it out. I have been attempting to take community college classes since high school and I cannot pass anything and can not get a certificate in an thing so I can have a chance of independence for once in my life. I am a huge burden to my family. I don’t know where to go to get tested and have help with employment. I’m as sick as my mother is that she has been burning money on college courses for nothing. I have gotten tutors for many years and it still doesn’t help. I also think that college has raised the bar all the way to the sky since I graduated high school 28 years ago.

    • LDA of America says:

      Contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation office. Find information about that agency at They help people with disabilities find jobs that match their strengths, and provide counseling to help you better understand your disability and how it affects your life. They may also be able to help you go back to college. If you decide to try college again, be sure to contact their Disability Support Services office FIRST. If you have current documentation of your disability, they will determine what accommodations you can have in class and during tests. There are many articles about this and other information about how to succeed in college as a person with a learning disability at If you don’t have current documentation of your disability, go to to learn how to get it. That documentation will help you pinpoint your areas of strengths and challenges to more effectively choose accommodations that will work for you.

  7. I have a granddaughter who was in an special school. She never graduated she has been looking for work and can not find work.i am really concerned because she is really trying and seem to be getting very discouraged. She had an hard time in trying to keep up in school. Please, please help us find some help. Is there any school out to help young ladies like to to try and get an diploma. She has problems counting too.

    • LDA of America says:

      Contact your local adult education program to see if they can help your daughter learn some basic skills and begin working towards earning a high school equivalency diploma. They should be listed under “Adult Education” in your phone book, or you can search for your state’s adult education website, where they will list local programs and contact information. Be sure and take your daughter’s disability documentation with you when you go to the adult education center for the first time so they can start the process of requesting accommodations on the test.

      You might also want to contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation office and set up an appointment for you and your daughter. Find information about that agency at They help people with disabilities find jobs that match their strengths, and provide counseling to help you better understand your disability and how it affects your life.

  8. America Lopez says:

    Hello.. I’ve struggled to get & maintain a job most of the time. I was in special ed for being a “slow learner” since elementary all the way to graduation.. I went to college for dental assisting, and to God be the glory i graduated, found a job as a dental assistant, but i was too slow to catch up on things, on top of being a shy person. I made mistakes, and my boss would humiliate me infront of everyone, until one day after about six months i just quit after he started nagging me off so loudly infront of patients & staff.. I also worked in a convenience store but would always come over or short with the money in the register, i never really caught up with it.. that store was going to close soon but i was told they’d call me to go to the new location but they didn’t call me back and id call but they’d give me the runaround. I had sheltered myself eversince my last job, gave up on a job but im back and now I’m even looking for a provider job from 8-2 mon-fri, but nothing.. They just tell me to leave my name & # but no call. I’m concidering the thought that i might have a learning disability after all, but i believe God can heal me if He wanted to, though it so seems this is the way He meant for me to be. And what can i do about that.. Even in all these things blessed be the name of the LORD.. God bless you all..
    Ps. I enjoy painting, arts & crafts, im learning to work with wood, i never worked with the clay to make pottery, always wanted to try it.. I easily get distracted though, with jumping to do other things, leaving the previous thing unfinished for a while, but evenso i can’t help but think that perhaps my Lord Jesus Christ has given me a talent or passion for art because He wants me to work with my hands 🙂

  9. Rebecca Preston says:

    Okay I need help. More ways the one. I hope some one can help here. I’m thinking about going back to college. But put it off because I have a learning disability. And I use to have a speech problem. In Highschool. I can’t find any of my paper work to prove it. I only have my report card that show I was taking out of classes. How do I prove it. Mine is miner. That I don’t know if I would show up. I’m worried about that. So could some one please help. Or send me where to go. I try the one link above but got the page doesn’t exist anymore. Okay. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.

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