Learning Disorder Evaluations
You may have noticed your child struggles in various areas of academics despite extra instruction, tutoring, or work with parents/caregivers at home. You know your child is bright and capable of learning within the school environment, but something is keeping your child from performing at school and learning at the same pace as their same-aged peers. This is a situation that may require an evaluation in order to clarify what is preventing your child from succeeding.
A learning disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition. In other words, a learning disorder impacts the way the brain is “wired” or the way the brain forms internal connections to process information. There is no single neurological explanation of learning disorders that is directly translatable to a specific pattern of brain activity or abnormality as seen via brain imaging. However, research has repeatedly emphasized that specific learning disorders most likely occur due to the way the brain has been wired since birth.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines a specific learning disability as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.” This disability category includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia (a type of language disorder). This definition guides educational institutions regarding the provision of special education services. Aka, if a child is diagnosed with a specific learning disorder, public schools must provide services or interventions to address this disorder. Of note, most schools require formal testing to be conducted to substantiate the presence of this disorder.
Our specific learning disorder evaluations assess for specific learning disorders in three domains: math, reading, and writing. These are the three academic domains that have been identified as areas of focus for learning disorders by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th Edition, authored by the American Psychiatric Association. You will notice that we have been using the term Specific Learning Disorder to describe learning disorders. This terminology is consistent with the wording used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th Edition. However, you may be more familiar with terms such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. These terms are compatible with the criteria for specific learning disorders, and the three specific learning disorders (in the areas of reading, writing, and math) generally subsume the criteria for these disorders. For example, dyslexia is defined by the presence of the following symptoms: problems with fluent word recognition, poor word decoding, and poor spelling abilities. Similar to the classical usage of the term dyslexia, Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Reading encompasses these problems and expands the criteria to include difficulty with reading fluency and reading comprehension. Another example would be the term dyscalculia, which is defined by problems processing numerical information, learning math facts, and performing accurate or fluent calculations. Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Math is also inclusive of these problems, although it also includes problems with math reasoning and accurate numerical sense when solving math problems. Thus, although you or other professionals may use the words dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, our use of the term Specific Learning Disorder is generally inclusive of the criteria for these disorders and expands upon their definition to include more complex issues within the academic subject.
Learning disorder evaluations also assesses for other disorders that may impact academic performance such as intellectual disability disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and certain behavioral disorders. We begin the evaluation with the child and his or her caregivers and gather background data such as early developmental history, family history, medical history, family history of learning disorders, academic history, social history, and other background components that may impact our conceptualization. We assess for both cognitive ability (generally via an intelligence test such as the WPPSI-IV, WISC-V, or WAIS-IV) and academic achievement (via academic achievement tests such as the WIAT-III, WRAT, and/or KTEA-III) to determine if there is a pattern of strengths and weaknesses present that is indicative of a specific learning disorder. This evaluation can take anywhere from four to six hours to complete. We recommend that you or your child take multiple breaks to prevent fatigue and to provide encouragement to complete this assessment.
If you’re looking for a professional learning disorder test and evaluation, give Colorado’s top-rated learning disorder evaluation center at Brain & Body integration a call today. Get the answers you’ve been looking for.