The Adult with Learning Disabilities and Assessment

There is no one test for learning disabilities but a series of various tests. It is important to determine why the individual wishes to be assessed. The reasons that lead the individual to seek an assessment as well as current problems and challenges should be discussed in addition to the expectations of what the assessment will accomplish. There are major differences between assessing for employment, educational needs or for self awareness. The assessment should consist of :

  1. An initial interview
  2. A measure of intellectual functioning
  3. A measure of academic achievement levels
  4. Social and emotional evaluations
  5. Feedback interview
  6. AN INITIAL INTERVIEW SHOULD COVER A THOROUGH REVIEW OF:
    • birth history and early development;
    • language and cultural background;
    • medical history including vision, hearing, neurological status, illnesses, allergies, medications and current health conditions;
    • family and social history to determine social, behavioural or emotional factors or any hereditary patterns;
    • academic and work history;
    • previous psychological evaluations and relevant medical tests.
  7. A MEASURE OF INTELLECTUAL FUNCTIONING:

    The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Revised is widely used. In addition to determining levels of intellectual ability, specific measures should be included in the test battery to assess: short and long-term memory functions; language functions including receptive and expressive vocabulary; verbal and non-verbal abstract reasoning or logic; attention span, visual – perceptual abilities including various spatial tasks, sequencing, right-left orientation and fine motor dexterity and; organizational and planning skills.

  8. A MEASURE OF ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT LEVELS

    Basic skill areas of reading, spelling, written expression and mathematics should be evaluated. The profile of reading subskills should be determined (e.g.: reading vocabulary, word recognition, comprehension of paragraphs and phonetic knowledge); math computation and problem-solving; mechanical and creative aspects of writing. With this detailed information, the psycho- logist should outline an effective plan to remediate or compensate for the academic difficulties.

    Study skills, organizational and workplace skills, as well as time management are other areas that should be assessed along with the basic skills. Learning disabilities screening questionnaires may be used to assess the individual’s perception of areas of ability and difficulty, life skills, specific academic problems, and workplace issues.

  9. SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL EVALUATIONS

    This part of the assessment consists of formal instruments to determine whether social/emotional problems occur concurrently with or are secondary to learning disabilities. Anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and attention deficit disorder are important areas to examine.

  10. FEEDBACK INTERVIEW

    Once the testing is completed, a one hour feedback interview is carried out to convey the results along with suggestions for remediation to improve weaknesses or compensatory strategies and accommodations to cope more effectively with problem areas. A written report is provided either at the same time or following the session.

  11. LENGTH OF TIME

    The time to complete the testing portion of the assessment varies but typically ranges from four to six hours. The interview and assessment may all be done on the same day or during different appointments.

  12. CHALLENGES OF AN ASSESSMENT

    Finding a registered psychologist who is thoroughly knowledgeable about learning disabilities may be difficult.

  13. BENEFIT OF AN ASSESSMENT

    Most feel a sense of emotional relief when they learn that their difficulties have a specific reason. Many adults have grown up feeling inadequate attributing their difficulties to a general lack of ability. Knowing why they have experienced definable weaknesses often has an immediate impact on how they perceive themselves. A better understanding of their problems and notably their strengths can be an important first step towards building self-esteem and developing more effective coping strategies. The greatest benefit is usually peace of mind.

  14. COST OF ASSESSMENT
  15. Psychologists are usually not covered under a provinical health plan. Many insurance companies cover some portion of psychological testing and most require a letter of referral from a physician to the psychologist. The cost typically ranges from $800 to $1200. Many unemployed or underemployed adults cannot afford such services. It is possible to gain access to an assessment through an institution (college, university or hospital) or agency (social services, vocational rehabilitation, Canada Employment Centre) if you meet their requirements and are willing to wait. Some people may be covered by the Extended Benefits Plan of their work Health Insurance Plan. Check cost and coverage before starting the assessment and ask about a sliding scale fee structure and payment over time.

    For most adults with learning disabilities, this represents an insurmountable financial barrier.

AFTER DIAGNOSIS, WHAT NEXT?

There can be advantages to both the employee and employer in monetary and personal cost-effectiveness. Many employers are willing to accommodate special needs in a supportive yet confidential and professional manner. It is strongly recommended that students disclose since there are many excellent support programs for the student with learning disabilities in community colleges and universities.

Ensure that the assessment provides a clear statement about: whether or not there are learning disabilities and if so what types(s); about strengths and weaknesses; and about guidelines to remediate and/or compensate for the learning disability.

The psychological assessment must be carried out by or under the supervision of a registered psychologist who specializes in learning disabilities and is:

  • trained to administer the tests;
  • trained and experienced in interpreting the results;
  • able to provide concrete recommendations for better learning and coping.

ADAPTED FROM:

For You: Adults with Learning Disabilities , by C. Smith, (1991) LDAC

Tools for Transitions: A Counsellor’s Guide to Learning Disabilities , by E. Nichols, (1994) LDA-ON

Let’s Look at the Assessment of Learning Disabilities in Adults , by Dr. C. Fiedorowicz, National, Summer 1995 pg 5, LDAC

Reprinted from: http://www.ldac-taac.ca/InDepth/adult_assessment-e.asp