4 Steps for Adults with Learning Disabilities

View the video version:

Got an excellent question today from colleague Jeanne Morton at Cleveland Housing Network:

A tutor indicated to me that she thinks her student has a learning disability, possibly dsylexia.  Do you know of any resources to test her?

  1. Use a Screening Tool: You can see if the student has a high likelihood of a Learning Disability (LD) using the Washington 13 Learning Needs Screening Tool, available online in PDF form here.  Directions for administering the screening tool is included in the document.  However, it’s only a screening tool and can’t diagnose a learning disability.  (Actually, I’ve had more students who score high on this test come back from the Doctor reporting untreated mental health problems than LDs)
  2. Call Health Insurance for a Psychologist: Only a licensed Psychologist/Neuropsychologist can diagnose an LD.  If the student has health insurance, this is usually covered–definitely by Medicaid.  Call the student’s insurance provider and ask for a referral for a Psychologist or a Neuropsychologist who can provide an LD assessment. Any information that your tutor can collect about observations of specific behaviors that may indicate a learning disability will be helpful for the assessment (there are a whole host of different “tests” to see which specific disability it could be).  Put the observations in a letter form on your letterhead and make sure the diagnostician gets that information.  Also request that the diagnostician makes specific recommendations for accommodations that should be made for teaching and testing.
  3. No health insurance? There are options: If the student doesn’t have health insurance, then there are a couple avenues to get an official assessment for free or a reduced rate.  In the Cleveland area, Ellen Fishman at the Learning Disabilities Association of Northeast Ohio (LDA NEO) can provide a referral for those services: 216.292.4549. Nationally, find more information for adults at the Learning Disabilities Association of America website.
  4. Diagnosed? Apply for Accommodations: If the student is diagnosed with an LD or any disability, then there’s paperwork to be submitted to the state GED testing service to receive accommodations on the GED or any other standardized test. More information and links to forms are available online from the national GED testing service here.  The state GED office approves accommodations on a case-by-case basis and also requests that any accommodations used on the test (like audio tapes, double time, etc) be used consistently by teachers before testing. Some accommodations are available just by request without forms, like colored overlays, stress balls, taking only one test per day, and food/water available for diabetics; you can just call the testing coordinator beforehand.  But if the student has dyslexia, they will most likely need at least extra time on the test and maybe more which requires documentation & approval by the state office.  Long before the student is ready to take the GED test, having the testing recommendations from the diagnostician helps you properly administer the TABE or other assessments to see if you’re accurately measuring the student’s current performance level.

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