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

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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Comments

  1. Christine says:

    Lost mum to suicide age 13 then dad died when i was age 15. Sucked at school, excellent writing though not formal and I can read but i usuallly don,t. Have difficulty retelling a story or remembering lots of steps at once. basic maths (don’t understand 9 year old maths). Grasping complicated stories or Instructions or giving listening to more than a few steps of directions unless it’s Sat Nav. . I’m. 59 years old , is it worth getting tested? And would it help me or make me upset.

    • LDA of America says:

      I don’t think your question has a definite answer. What would you hope to gain from testing? If your answer is learning what causes you to have specific challenges in your life so that you can receive accommodations in a workplace, then I would say that it would be worth it. Also, some people who are tested find relief that the challenges they have faced have a name and they are not the only one with that disability. However, no one can guarantee that that would be your response or that you would find the testing helpful at all. Also, testing can be fairly expensive, so if you don’t have a specific reason for being tested, it might not be worth the cost.

  2. Skyla Notley says:

    I had an IEP until my 10th grade year and they I was told it “expired”. I am now about to enroll in college and feel as though I need to be tested to gain accommodations in college but i don’t know where to go or who to talk to.

    • LDA of America says:

      Check with the college that you are planning to attend to see what documentation is required to receive accommodations. This varies from college to college. Some colleges may take your most recent testing. If not, ask them if they offer an assessment at a discounted rate. If not, some family insurance policies pay for assessments. Also, check with your local Vocational Rehabilitation office to see if they will accept you as a client and provide additional testing.

  3. my name is Gabrielle. im 19 and have no high school education and my city high school wont take me because i was to old to be enrolled. they said i would have already had to been enrolled and no one will do an iep. so what do i do.

  4. What kind of help is there for an adult with a learning disability. I’ve been diagnosed with LD years ago and wondering if I should talk to a social worker or someone else for guidance and direction? I’m having more and more problems with my job and other areas in my life, and have no idea where to turn. Division of Rehabilitation Services wasn’t helpful; they just reconfirmed that I had LD and said I wasn’t sever enough that they couldn’t help me. (Baltimore, Maryland area)

    • LDA of America says:

      It certainly couldn’t hurt to talk to a social worker or a counselor about your challenges. You might reach out to your state LDA organization for ideas of professionals in your area who work well with individuals with LD. The LDA Maryland email address is LDAMD@ldamd.org. The Job Accommodations Network: https://askjan.org/ has a variety of strategies and supports available to assist individuals with disabilities at work. They also can talk to you individually to answer your questions. Good luck!

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