What is a learning disability?
Learning disabilities are often debated by psychologists and special education professionals. There seems to be agreement on the following:
Students with learning disabilities have at least average intelligence. These individuals have the ability to meet the daily demands of school and earn average grades.
These students are not achieving to expected levels in a given subject area (i.e., reading, writing, and/or mathematics). Dyslexia is perhaps the most commonly known learning disability which significantly impacts a student's performance on tasks that require reading, writing, oral expression (expressive language), and the understanding of language (receptive language).
What tests are typically administered during the testing portion of the evaluation when the concern is that a child may have a learning disability?
The three essential components of the evaluation include:
- A norm-referenced, standardized intelligence test designed to measure cognitive ability such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV (WISC-IV) or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III). Other measures such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale-Fifth Edition (SB-V) or the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence-Third Edition (TONI-3) may be used.
- A norm-referenced, standardized assessment of academic achievement such as the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement-Third Edition (WJ-III ACH) or the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-II (WIAT-II) to determine skills in basic reading, reading comprehension, math reasoning, math calculation, spelling, written expression, listening comprehension, and speaking. More specific assessments of reading, writing, mathematics, and language skills are given as needed.
- A norm-referenced, standardized assessment of information processing in areas such as memory, attention, problem solving, and thinking skills. These measures are given to better understand why a child is having academic difficulties. Measures used include: The Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning (WRAML), NEPSY, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities-Third Edition, Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test-Second Edition, and the Berry-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration-Fifth Edition.