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If your child is struggling in school despite receiving extra help, you may be wondering if your child has a learning disability. Figuring out whether your child has a learning disability, and what to do about it, can become clear with formal testing by a professional with expertise in the field. Evaluation of suspected learning disabilities is essential to finding appropriate interventions so that children do not fall behind in school.
A learning disability (LD) is defined by poor achievement in particular academic areas compared to a child’s potential, which is based on the child’s general intellectual ability. Poor performance in school is itself not necessarily an indicator of a learning disability (LD); rather, poor performance in the context of appropriate effort, attention, and additional help may be indicative of a specific learning disorder. Learning disabilities may affect particular academic skills, such as reading or math, but often affect a variety of subject areas. Learning disabilities can also be exacerbated or compounded by attention problems. While prevalence estimates vary, a significant percentage of children with learning disabilities also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
There are several benefits of a comprehensive evaluation for learning disabilities, also called a psycho-educational evaluation. First, the diagnosis of an LD can establish a child’s eligibility for educational services in schools. Second, the reasons underlying poor academic performance in a specific subject area can be determined; and, finally and most importantly, specific learning problems can be subsequently targeted for intervention or remediation.
Sometimes poor performance in school is a result of social or emotional factors that are not associated with a learning disability. It is important to identify and address, for example, whether a child is struggling with anxiety or depression that may be affecting his or her school performance. Comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations help parents and teachers to determine whether social and emotional problems may be interfering with the learning process.
Early identification of learning disabilities leads to targeted interventions that can help children progress in school. Early intervention is best, so it is critical to have your child tested as soon as a learning disability is suspected. Regardless of the reasons behind poor school performance, assessment is the first step in getting your child back on track to academic success.
Rebecca L. Marshall, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Licensed Psychologist and Staff Therapist at the Summit Counseling Center in Johns Creek, Georgia.