Assessments and diagnosis

For a learning disability to be identified it is first important to rule out other factors that may be affecting the learning process such as visual, hearing, or motor impairments, environmental or cultural factors, or an acquired brain injury. The formal assessment of learning disabilities focuses on psychological and educational tests , including tests of intelligence and cognitive abilities, achievement tests, and tests of behaviour and attention. The tests themselves will yield scores that are able to give an estimate of the general intelligence (intelligence quotient or IQ) of the student, and the academic achievement level as compared to an established norm of the individual’s age group. A qualified psychologist or psychometrist may only conduct this formal assessment.

If AD/HD is suspected, a professional child psychiatrist, psychologist, developmental/behavioural paediatrician, or a neurologist can make the diagnosis. After ruling out other possible reasons for the individual’s behaviour, the specialist will check the behavioural and medical history of the individual and diagnosis based on a series of forms and questionnaires listing common symptoms of AD/HD and the long term presence of specific behaviours.

The following chart outlines the differences between learning disabilities and AD/HD

Learning Disabilities ADHD/ADD
Diagnosis Intelligence, academic and processing tests to determine disparities between ability and performance Defined by symptoms of hyperactivity and inattentiveness
Presumed cause Different circuitry in the brain Insufficient metabolism of particular brain chemicals
Treatment Medication cannot change brain circuitry May include medication to increase metabolism as well as other interventions
Needs modified education that is customized to individuals learning differences. Once attentive, individuals are able to learn as others do