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The Evaluation of Learning Disabilities

Before we begin: 

When considering having me perform a psychological/educational evaluation for your son or daughter, please remember that the public school system provides psychological services which include testing for learning problems. Your tax dollars have already paid for the staff who provide these services in your county. Most insurance companies do not cover testing of this kind for just this reason. If you hope to use your insurance coverage please check with me before we begin the evaluation so that we may ascertain whether your carrier will cover any part of the evaluation. It is critical that this is done in advance as very few insurance companies will backdate an authorization for services (when authorization is required). 

What else might explain my child's academic problems? 

Academic problems sometimes have their roots in other areas. These include a wide variety of personal or family factors such as the following:

  • visual or hearing problems
  • allergies or food intolerances
  • health problems (including side effects of medications)
  • other medical/neurological conditions such as ADHD/ADD
  • worry, anxiety or depression stemming from
    peer problems
    parental job stresses
    financial difficulties
    illness or death of a family member, relative or pet
What are the components of an LD evaluation?

Part of the evaluation involves ruling out other possible factors by taking a careful family and medical history. In addition to having parents complete a detailed history form, I like to meet with them for an hour to gather additional background information prior to meeting with the child to do the formal testing. This is followed by a series of testing sessions with the child. Following this I prepare a draft of the report and meet with the parents (and older teens) to discuss the results of the evaluation and my recommendations. After the parents have had an opportunity to review the draft, I give the parents a final copy with additional copies as needed for the school, pediatrician, etc.

Information I need from you:

Please bring me photocopies of as much of the following as you can locate -- 

  • Report cards from as far back as you have them
  • Standardized achievement test scores such as the ITBS, Stanford, and CAT
  • Prior psychological evaluations
  • Samples of homework -- the more varied the better, including math homework and handwritten compositions such as book reports. You do not need to copy homework. I will return all originals. Please do not bring any personal writings (journals/diaries) without first getting permission from your son or daughter.

In general, the more you wish to bring to have me look at, the better. Sometimes I find a critical clue buried in a stack of papers. 

IQ and achievement testing:

IQ and achievement testing typically requires about six hours spread out over several sessions (usually 45 to 90 minutes each.) My typical evaluation includes the following test instruments as a core battery:

  • (WISC-IV) Weschler Intelligence Scales For Children - 4th Revision
  • (WJ-III Cognitive) Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability
  • (WJ-III Achievement) Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement
  • (GORT-4) Gray Oral Rating Tests - 4th Revision
  • (GSRT) Gray Silent Reading Tests
  • Nelson Denny Reading Test (for senior high and college students)
  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP) (early elementary)
  • (Beery) Beery-Buktenica Test of Visual Motor Integration
  • several pencil-and-paper symptom checklists

If weaknesses emerge in a specific area such as spelling, math or reading, I administer additional subtests from other instruments to explore the area in greater depth. For example, I may use subtests from the K-TEA or WIAT to get additional measures about spelling or arithmetic if problems emerge on the WISC-IV or WJ-III.

What will it cost?
The evaluation has 4 components:

  • A diagnostic interview with the parents.
  • The actual testing with the student, typically 6-7 sessions 50 minutes each. Note that not all evaluations require extensive testing. I’ll know much better what testing will actually be needed after we have spoken about your child’s particular difficulties.
  • 3 hours to score, interpret the results and prepare a 15 - 20 page report.
  • A 90 minute feedback session with the parents (optionally, including the student).

Insurance will often allow the diagnostic interview and the feedback session as “covered services”, but it seldom covers the testing or report preparation. (Yes, I do take Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express.)

Multiple intelligence:

It is important to understand that "intelligence" is not a single construct. Researchers such as Gardner, Armstrong and Phipps have identified seven distinct kinds of intelligence. (My personal opinion is that more will be defined as time goes on.) The testing that I do looks at several of these, but for a variety of reasons is not meant to be an exhaustive assessment of all seven types. Here are the seven which have been defined thus far:

  • Verbal (writing, poetry, etc.)
  • Logical Mathematical (analytical, math)
  • Musical
  • Bodily Kinesthetic (movement, dance, athletics, craftsmen, etc.)
  • Visual Spatial (designers, painters, artists, etc.)
  • Intrapersonal
  • Naturalist Intelligence

Our school system is heavily skewed to the first two. In the early grades (K-3) there is more emphasis on visual spatial. After that point there is a progressive shift to more auditory based teaching with an emphasis on verbal and logical/mathematical skills. 

For some additional reading on a related issue of learning styles, see the article What Sounds Right To You May Look Better To Your Child.

For a bibliography and links to related web sites see LD-ADHD Resources.