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. Tabitha Copeland says

    hi im 37 years old i have some problems understanding certain things i have trouble staying focoused on things my spelling reading and math skills are off i never been tested for any thing tho two of my childrend are diagnosed with intellectarul disaiblity what should i do thanks

    • LDA of America says

      I use Grammarly to help me with spelling on my computer and cell phone. Several reading Apps will help read information to you through your cell phone. With math, I also suggest Apps to help. Several people that I know who have difficulty focusing do yoga and mindfulness Apps to help refocus. Also other exercise will help you receive natural endorphins that will in turn help with focusing.

  2. Kenneth porter says

    Hi I am 65 disabled for ten years depression My question is I was in Marine Corps 1973 To 1975 Long story I Have Learning disability I Should have never been allowed to Join This has scarred my Life have not Grad high school 8th suffered anxiety PTSD WHAT IS my options I believe I WAS to young to understand my choices Sincerly Kenneth Porter

  3. Michelle says

    I suspect that I may have a learning disability. I am employed in an office. My work is passed on to my office mates, who depend on me getting my work correct. Things change at a rapid pace and I have difficulty keeping up. My memory is not reliable. Whenever I try to learn something new, I seem to lose information I already know. I know it is frustrating for my office mates and they respond by whispering behind my back about how incompetent I am. It is taking an emotional toll on me. My performance can be on point occasionally, but for the most part I am struggling. I want to rise to the challenges my job presents, but find myself at a loss much of the time. Where can I begin to get help so I can do an effective job?

  4. Jen Holt says

    I’m an adult that has some kind of mental disability all my life but it has been unnoticed though. I have a short attention span. I also can’t learn certain things at all. I can’t process some things.How would I get evaluated for this? I can’t learn things like dancing and throwing a football. Thanks for your help

    • LDA of America says

      It sounds like you might first want to go to your physician to determine if you might have ADD. The physician can diagnose this and can probably direct you to someone in your area who might do more specific testing for your processing concerns. If you live in an area where there is a college that teaches people to give LD assessments, you might be able to get tested there at a reduced cost. If not, you might contact your local vocational rehabilitation services to see if they can help. Check out LDAs information sheet on assessment here: Good luck!

  5. I am 52 and was always in the special group fro reading and writing at school for as long as I can remember . I have never been diagnosed with anything. I struggled in school but always tried my hardest. I just always believed I was stupid not like my peers who always had the answers to everything .
    I went back to school in Uk to do hairdressing at 35 and began to realize there was something wrong as I couldn’t understand the coloring process and charts as well or as quickly as everyone else.
    I got there in the end and had a happy life hairdressing . However I am now in The USA and being asked to do a theory and practical exam to get my license. I have always suffered from terrible anxiety during exams. I have been trying desperately to study but I can’t retain any information. I know something is wrong and wondered if I found out why I can’t learn it may help me after all theses years of anxiety in issues of my life.
    What and where would you advise me to go ? And will it be expensive?

    • LDA of America says

      I suggest some testing and study strategies to help with retaining information, as well as helping you increase your ability to demonstrate your outcomes (tests). Many YouTube videos, applications, etc. are available for free. Another suggestion is to take a study skills class at a local community college, which is minimal cost but provides very beneficial strategies.


    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 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

  7. 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 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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