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.


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  1. Hi I am 48 and I want to find out what is wrong with me. I don’t have any of the typical ld problems like I was always fairly good in math, spelling and English. But I can’t understand directions and I make so many mistakes and I forget everything. I got fired from my last job for forgetting something and I am probably going to get fired from this job now for making so many mistakes; even when I look things over I don’t see the mistakes. I’m not very good with people either never make friends and don’t know when to talk to people. I’ve had IQ tests that said anywhere from 89 to 128. Some people in my life have thought I am stupid and some have thought I was smart. I just need to know what my capabilities are so I can aim for the right job for my level.

    • LDA of America says

      Some suggestions are for you to not just have verbal directions, but to have the directions written down or even take a video of what needs to be completed. Then as you complete each step of the larger task, check it off to make sure you complete each step. Check for executive function apps to help you break the project into more manageable steps.

  2. I was in ld my whole school years do I still have ld at age 38 or does it go away? I have trouble learning fast an other things can I get ssi for ld

    • LDA of America says

      Learning disabilities do not go away, since they are part of a person’s neurological makeup. However, the challenges faced by people with learning disabilities can often be accommodated using specific learning strategies and/or assistive technology. The decision to award SSI payments for people with LD is based on the severity of the disability as well as its impact on education and career goals. If you want to start the SSI application process, you need to contact your local Social Security Administration office.

  3. Tequila Wright says

    hello I am a mother of four. I am writing this message in search of maybe needing some mental help for me and my four children as well. I have been thru so much in the past years leading me to this point in my life. I just want to know if something is wrong with me? I question myself because I like to know, and to try to find myself, as time goes on and things are happening day in and day out. Please get back in touch with me and I can tell you the rest of story. Thank you and have a bless day.

    • LDA of America says

      There is no way to determine the presence of a learning disability or a mental health issue without seeking help from a professional who is trained to do those kinds of evaluations. Check with your doctor’s clinic or local mental health clinic to see if you can meet with one of their doctors to determine what kinds of assessments would be the best fit for the kinds of problems you’re having. It can be so frustrating to feel like something is not right, but a face-to-face evaluation with a professional is the only way to find out for sure.

  4. Hello,

    I was looking for resources for either free testing for LD or places that take insurance, particularly Medicaid. Are there any available? Thank you

  5. a lot has happen to me over the past 6 years everything is hard and confusing I hate that I cant spell some words my mind wonders its like I just need help or be around people just like me that understand me. I been trying to find schools that can help me plus see if I can get more help I think I have more that just a learning disability.

    • LDA of America says

      If you are interested in determining whether or not you have a learning disability, read about the evaluation process at Going through the complete evaluation process may also help you see your strengths and challenges more clearly. You might also try contacting your local mental health clinic. They usually provide services on a sliding fee scale, and can do different types of assessments to help determine what difficulties you may be having. If you don’t know where to find the nearest mental health clinic, contact your local Department of Human Services to see if they can give you a phone number and/or address.

  6. I have been terrible at spelling and punctuation my entire life, now at age 45 it is keeping me from advancing in my career. I have tried to take some different business writing classes but they only focus on the actual content. I have no problem expressing myself in written or spoken word, I just spell terribly. Am I lazy or is there something else going on?

    • LDA of America says

      Difficulty with spelling is one of many characteristics of learning disabilities; however, poor spelling alone does not identify the presence of a learning disability. If you are interested in determining whether or not you have a learning disability, read about the evaluation process at In the meantime, you may be able to use assistive technology to help you on the job. There are a TON of apps and assistive technology devices that allow people with learning disabilities to function very well in their school, work, and personal life. For example, speech-to-text software like Dragon Naturally Speaking or Window’s Narrator allow you to talk to your computer and it types what you say. It includes a lot of tools for checking spelling, and you can set it up to do the punctuation for you. Voice Dream Reader is an app for your android or iPhone that lets you use your phone to take a picture of what you want to read and then it reads it out loud to you. This works great for books, magazines, menus, or whatever else you need to read that’s not on a computer. It would work perfectly for reading what you need to in order to help your kids with their homework. You can check it out at It costs $9.99 at the App Store or Google Play. Voice Dream also has tools for writing that might help you on your job. Their website is worth checking out.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 The Job Accommodations Network: 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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