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in Determining Learning Disabilities
disability” is a catch all term that describes problems with the acquisition,
understanding and expression of information.
It is important to note that other terms are also used that refer to
basically the same thing. Thus,
dyslexia, reading disorder, processing disorders and so forth, are all referring
to some form of learning disability. Since we use all of our senses to gather
information, a learning disability can affect how we use a particular sense, how
we organize the information that passes to the brain and then how we use the
disability is different from, but related to intelligence. Intelligence refers
to the ability to reason, problem solve, plan and use judgment, which in turn
may depend on the information acquired. Hence one can at the same time be
intelligent but may have difficulty with the acquisition, understanding and use
a learning disability may relate to a specific issue, all other abilities can
still be intact – much like having poor eyesight, but great hearing. Thus,
when all the abilities and disabilities are added up, a person can still appear
“normal on average”. The issue
is that when we need a particular ability (e.g., reading) and it is not there, a
problem becomes evident. If you are
concerned about a learning disability, psychoeducational assessment will be
identifying learning disabilities occur with situations that are not immediately
obvious, situations that are more complex or where the person’s other
strengths help to “mask” or hide the learning disability.
Thus, issues can arise when interpreting the results of psychoeducational
tests. If one only looks at the “surface” or overall scores then problems
can be missed. Hence, more than
overall scores are required to understand problems in depth. Specifics must be
other cases, some persons test at least average on all areas, but with far
greater abilities in specific areas. So while the person tests “normal”, the
difference in abilities can cause the person to feel a problem when having to
rely upon a weaker area. This is
like having two good legs, but with one longer than the other.
Both are inherently good, yet the person will still limp because of the
differences between them.
is a wealth of information that psychoeducational tests provide.
Knowing how to interpret test scores requires both training and
experience. Without both, the
consumer is not getting the full benefit of an assessment.
properly identifying a learning disability can have negative effects, which
include academic struggles being taken as “attitude” rather than the
disability. This in turn can lead to conflict, upset and reduced self-esteem,
not to mention ongoing academic problems.
most psychologists can provide the testing, it is the experienced psychologist
who can interpret the results and even make sense of learning problems where the
person seems otherwise “normal or average”. Sometimes you need to look for
what isn’t obvious or be able to understand issues arising from good scores,
but where there are still substantial differences.
you or your child has had a psychoeducational assessment and problems remain, it
may be time to revisit the results and dig deeper. The problem isn’t always
Thanks to Estes Moustacalis, PhD for feedback and editing.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
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