Adults with Learning Disabilities: Assessing the Problem

When adults suspect they may have a learning disability, or that someone they care about does, they need information. They often have questions such as, What can I do? Whom can I call? How can I obtain information? Where are available services?

Assessing the problem

Those adults who suspect they may have a learning disability can begin to find assistance can begin by having an assessment conducted by qualified professionals. Qualified professionals are individuals trained to conduct assessments. Often the professionals have been certified to select, administer, and interpret a variety of neurological, psychological, educational and vocational assessment instruments.

Different assessment procedures may be appropriate in various settings such as community colleges, adult basic education programs, and through vocational rehabilitation agencies. It is important for the adult not only to be actively involved in the assessment process, but also to have confidence in the professional with whom he or she is working.

An assessment refers to the gathering or relevant information that can be used to help an adult make decisions, and provides a means for assisting an adult to live more fully. An adult is assessed because of problems in employment, education, and/or life situations. An assessment involves more than just taking tests. An assessment includes an evaluation, a diagnosis, and recommendations.

The firs t stage of an evaluation is usually screening. Screening tools use abbreviated, informal methods to determine if an individual is at risk for a learning disability. Examples of informal methods include, but are not limited to: an interview; reviews of medical, school, or employment histories; written answers to a few questions; or a brief test. It is important to understand, however, that being screened for a learning disability is different from undergoing a thorough evaluation. When conducting a thorough evaluation, qualified professionals may first refer to the results of the screening in order to plan which tests may include, but are not limited to, those that provide information on intelligence, aptitude, achievement, and vocational interests. During the evaluation stage of the assessment process, all relevant information about an individual should be gathered.

A diagnosis is a statement of the specific type of learning disability that an individual may have, based on an interpretation of the information gathered during the evaluation. A diagnosis serves a useful purpose if it explains an individual's particular strengths and weaknesses, as well as determines eligibility for resources or support services that have not been otherwise available. Through a careful examination and analysis of all information gathered during the evaluation, qualified professionals use the diagnostic stage of the assessment process to explain the information gathered and to offer recommendations.

Recommendations should provide direction in employment, education, and daily living. Specific recommendations may be made regarding the instructional strategies which an individual will find most successful, as well as other ways to compensate for
and/or overcome some of the effects of the disability. Based on specific strengths and areas for development identified during the evaluation and diagnostic stages of the assessment process, recommendations should also suggest possible accommodations that an individual can use to be more successful and feel less frustrated in every day life.

Adults should be assessed according to their age, experience, and career objectives. This is the only way appropriate, helpful, and conclusive information can be provided to adults. As a result of an assessment, adults will have new information that can help them plan how to obtain the assistance they need. Regardless of their diagnosis, individuals will know more about themselves; have a greater understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and feel better about themselves.

Souce: Excerpted from LDA Newsbriefs