Learning disabilities and AD/HD are neurobiological disorders that affect one’s ability to read, write, speak, or compute math. These disorders can also impair social skills. Learning differences and attention problems can be lifelong conditions that, in some cases, affect many parts of a person’s life: early development, school, work, daily routines, family life, and sometimes even friendships and play. In some people—children or adults—many overlapping learning differences may be apparent. Other people may have a single, isolated learning problem that has little impact on other areas of their lives.
There are three basic types of learning disabilities:
Reading Disorders affect accuracy, speed or comprehension of reading material. In order for a reading disorder to be diagnosed, an individual’s reading achievement (as measured by individually administered standardized tests) must be substantially below what would be expected given the individual’s age, intelligence, and education.
Mathematics Disorders often affect academic achievement and daily functioning involving tasks that require mathematical abilities. People with this type of disorder may have difficulty recognizing or reading numbers, copying numbers correctly or counting objects. Similar to reading disorders, a mathematics disorder can only be diagnosed if an individual’s mathematical abilities are significantly below what would be expected given the individual’s age, intelligence, and education.
Written Expression Disorders interfere with academic achievement and with daily activities that require writing skills. Individuals with this disorder may have extremely poor handwriting, excessive spelling errors, and/or poor grammar and punctuation. Like other types of learning disabilities, these difficulties must be beyond what would be expected given other factors in a person’s life. The disorder is not due to a simple lack of education but to the brain’s impaired ability to process certain kinds of information.
For either the child or the adult, intervention as early as possible is extremely important when a learning disability is suspected. Appropriate interventions help to avoid a lifetime of difficulties that may include low self-esteem as well as academic and social problems. Early intervention in the case of a child can significantly enhance the child’s school experience. Proper assessment can provide adequate clarification of a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
Below are some common characteristics of individuals at risk of having a learning differences or AD/HD:
- Poor coordination and depth-perception
- Short attention-span
- Perseveration (doing the same thing over in the same way)
- Delayed speech
- Limited vocabulary/ poor verbal expression/ Inappropriate use of words
- Difficulty remembering what is heard
- Very low or very high pain-threshold
- Overreaction to noise
- Difficulty following or understanding simple directions
- Problems with organization
- Becoming easily overwhelmed
- Becoming easily bored
Psychoeducational assessment can determine whether a child (or an adult) has a learning disability or ADHD. In conjunction with assessment, specific recommendations can be made to assist the individual in overcoming the challenges presented by his or her specific learning differences.
A psychoeducational evaluation includes a clinical history, behavioral observations, and tests in the following areas:
- Problem solving and conceptualization
- Visual-spatial functions
- Language functions
- Sensory-perceptual functions
- Motor functioning
- Academic skills
- Memory and learning
- Planning and organization
- Emotions, behavior, and personality
- Attention and Concentration Motivation
What can be gained from having a psychoeducational evaluation?
The product or outcome of an evaluation provides information about the individual’s functioning including strengths and weaknesses. It includes specific recommendations to guide treatment and to enhance the individual’s functioning. There are several ways that test results are used including:
- The test results can be used to confirm or clarify a diagnosis.
- Provide a profile of strengths or weaknesses to guide rehabilitation, educational, vocational, or other services.
- Document changes in functioning since prior examinations, including effects of treatment.
- Result in referrals to other specialists, such as educational therapists, neurologists, psychiatrists, vocational counselors, speech and language therapists, special education teachers, or counseling therapists.