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What is a Learning Disability Assessment?

Otherwise referred to as a psycho-educational evaluation, a Learning Disability (LD) assessment measures a student's functioning in two primary areas that impact learning and academic functioning. These areas include: 1) cognitive assessment; and 2) basic academic skill development, which will be described below. 

  • Tests of Cognitive Ability - also called intelligence (IQ) tests, cognitive ability tests determine an individual’s ability on measures such as verbal reasoning skills (concept formation and abstract reasoning; word knowledge and fluency; and comprehension); nonverbal reasoning skills involving perceptual reasoning tasks (abstract analytic ability and spatial analysis; abstract, categorical reasoning ability; and fluid visual information processing and abstract reasoning skills); working memory tasks (short-term auditory memory; and auditory recall and sequencing); and processing speed tasks (visual and sequential processing speed; and short-term visual memory).


  • Tests of Academic Skill Development - determines skills in the areas of reading (basic reading skills and reading comprehension); mathematics (math calculation skills, fluency, and math reasoning); and written expression. Within each of these academic domains, the individual is tested on measures of basic skills development and higher level application and reasoning skills. For example, reading tests assess letter sight-word identification, decoding, fluency and comprehension.


 What are the purposes of an evaluation?

A Psycho-educational Evaluation is often conducted in order to determine whether a specific learning or other disability (e.g., ADHD) may be significantly impacting a student's academic performance. For instance, a learning disability, an attention deficit disorder, or emotional disorder can result in a great deal of academic frustration and inability for a student to perform at his/her level of potential.  It has been estimated that 15 to 20% of students are identified as learning disabled. A learning disability is typically diagnosed when assessment results reveal a significant discrepancy between a student's scores on achievement tests (in reading, mathematics, and/or written language) and his/her intellectual ability (based upon age norms).

In addition to determining whether a student has a specific disability that impacts upon learning, a psycho-educational evaluation gives a good indication of how a student learns best (e.g
., verbally or nonverbally). Once the teacher, parent, and student are empowered with this knowledge, they can make adjustments in order to maximize the student's learning potential. When students understand their individual strengths and weaknesses they may be able to reduce feelings of academic frustration, while improving self-esteem.
When would or should a Psycho-educational Evaluation be recommended?
A Psycho-educational Evaluation would be appropriate in situations where a student continues to experience academic difficulties after various interventions have been utilized (e.g., parent/teacher conferences, tutoring, extended time, assignment modification, preferential seating, etc.). Additionally, when parents and/or teachers observe major discrepancies over time (or between subject areas) in a student’s academic performance, an evaluation should be recommended.