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What Is Involved in a Learning Disability Screening?

By Crystal Cook
Updated May 17, 2024
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Learning disability screening begins when a child is in school, sometimes at the request of parents and sometimes at the behest of a teacher. Screening is conducted by a team of professionals who work together to conduct tests that will help identify whether a child has a learning disability and, if so, what kind. The results of the tests help the team determine if the child is eligible to receive special education services and develop a plan to maximize the child's education.

Parents may be the first to notice a problem and go their child's teachers for help, but the teacher also may notice a difference in the child in a classroom setting and bring it up with the parents. The problem could be as simple as the child not progressing as well academically as he or she should. Behavioral problems also can be a sign of a learning disability. Teachers and parents usually discuss interventions, such as more reading practice, before any testing for a disability is done. If there is no improvement or if both the teacher and parents think there is a disability, then learning disability screening will begin.

Teachers cannot simply say a student has a learning disability; the student has to be referred for testing. Testing for learning disabilities is required by both federal and state law in the United States. Tests, which vary by school system, usually involve studying several areas of the child's development to determine if he or she has a learning disability and what that disability is. Areas that may be considered during a learning disability screening are the child's education records and academic work, observations that are made about the child, intelligence quotient (IQ) tests, social and emotional testing, development and motor skills. Exams that test the child's hearing, vision, audiological ability and medical condition also may be conducted.

Professionals including teachers, school psychologists, counselors and speech therapists conduct the tests. These professionals form a team and share information about their findings. The results of a learning disability screening will indicate what kind of learning disability a child has. The tests also determine whether the child fits the criteria for a learning disability and whether special education is required. Participation and input from the parents is crucial throughout the learning disability screening process.

If the results show the child fits the criteria for a learning disability, then the team will develop an educational program tailored to that child. Details of the program will be written down, along with documentation of the child's learning disability, to show what educational program has been designed to help the child. If the child does not fit learning disability criteria, then the team can design a program with other interventions that may help the child progress.

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