How is a Learning Disability (Disorder) Diagnosed? The DSM5 indicates that the learning difficulties must be confirmed through a comprehensive clinical assessment. Typically, this includes a clinical interview, collection of background information and administration of standardized tests including measures of intelligence, academic achievement, memory, and other skills that contribute to learning how to read, write and do math. These assessments may be referred to as “Psychological” or “Psychoeducational” Asssessments.
What does Intelligence have to do with Learning Disabilities? The DSM5 indicates that Learning Disorders impact learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate normal or above levels of intellectual functioning. While learning problems can also be caused by generally low developmental or intellectual functioning, those diagnoses have very different long-term outcomes and require unique intervention approaches. In the case of a Specific Learning Disorder (or Learning Disability), the person has the underlying potential (i.e. intelligence) to perform at an age-appropriate level academically, but are unable to do so given specific skill deficits that are uncovered through an in-depth assessment.
Will I always have a Learning Disability? Learning Disorders are thought to be biologically based, and therefore, unlikely to disappear over time. However, one crucial aspect of intervention for individuals with Learning Disabilities is to learn strategies to adapt for their learning weaknesses, while maximizing on their strengths. Often, children who are diagnosed with a Learning Disability learn effective strategies to cope with their deficits and are able to use these to become fully-functional adults. Most children with Learning Disabilities are able to go to College or University if given the appropriate supports throughout their education.
What kinds of treatment or intervention is there for Learning Disabilities? In the early academic years, children with learning problems often require more intense, structured and very repetitive teaching of basic skills. They benefit most from working within small groups or individually with an adult who can tailor their instruction to the child’s needs. All schools have a Special Education Resource Teacher (SERT) to provide these types of services to students through the development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Some school boards also have special classes for students with Learning Disabilities, but these are becoming less prevalent. Technology is often used to support students with Learning Disabilities; particularly software with text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and word prediction. Environmental accommodations such as preferential seating, work buddies, alternative work spaces, and extra time for tests are often very helpful to these students.
What should I do if I think me or my child has a Learning Disability? The first step is to have a thorough Psychoeducational Assessment to find out whether you do, in fact, have a Learning Disability and what exactly your strengths and needs are. Dr. Scott B. McCabe & Associates offer these types of assessments. Call and book an appointment today!