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Assessing Your Child's Learning Difficulty or Learning Disability

A Brief Explanation...

If you or your child's teacher sees that your child may have difficulty learning, you may want to consider having your child undergo a learning disabilities assessment. After the child's hearing and vision has been tested, and hearing and/or vision problems have been ruled out, then the child should receive a learning disabilities (LD) evaluation.

Parents have a federally mandated right to request a learning disabilities evaluation for their child at the school district's expense. The most widely used model to test for a learning disability is the "discrepancy model." Under this approach, your child will receive a psychological evaluation, consisting of an IQ test; and an educational evaluation, consisting of academic achievement testing. If a significant discrepancy exists between the results of the two evaluations, particularly if a child has a high IQ but performs poorly on the academic tests, the child may have a learning disability.

A child who does not show an IQ/ Achievement discrepancy may still qualify for services if he or she performs poorly in one or more academic areas.  For example, if your child has a medical diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), he or she may qualify for resource services under the Other Health Impaired (OHI) classification.  Check with your local school district to get the details on how a child qualifies for special help and what help is available if a child does not meet the criteria for a learning disability.

An EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION may be performed by a school psychologist or by a private professional trained to test for learning disabilities.

A PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION (IQ test) must be administered by a licensed psychologist.


How can I request a learning disabilities assessment?

First, contact your local school and speak to the principal or Director of Special Education. Tell him or her that you would like your child to be evaluated for a learning disability.  Follow-up with a written request (be sure to keep a copy for your files). Send the request via certified mail. After the letter is received and the child’s records have been reviewed, the Special Education or Multidisciplinary Team will meet to determine if your child is performing below grade level.  Should that be the case, and after the necessary paperwork has been signed, your child should be assessed within 90 days.

Suppose the results from your child's evaluation do not show a learning disability--what should you do?

Reevaluate—You may want to consider having your child evaluated independently through a qualified private psychologist at your expense.   
If the results still do not show a learning disability, your child will not be eligible for special education services through the public school. You might want to check into general academic programs at school (e.g. remedial reading programs) or seek out a private tutor who can help your child.