Being Tested for LD in Adulthood
Many who struggle to learn as adults (and who struggled in their earlier school years) aren’t aware that they have a learning disability (LD). Other adults who were identified with LD when they were children face new challenges in managing their LD in college, on the job, and in carrying out other adult responsibilities. If either scenario describes you or someone you care about, you’ll benefit from the following information on evaluating, identifying, and managing LD in adulthood.
Many adults report feelings of relief after they’re tested and identified with an LD such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia. They finally know that their difficulties in learning and performing certain tasks are not their fault and their frustration and struggles can be attributed, at least in part, to a previously undiagnosed learning disability.
If you decide to be evaluated for LD, you can look forward to learning a good deal about yourself. Some of the benefits that result from being tested for LD include:
- A detailed account of your individual struggles and strengths.
- Specific strategies, including accommodations and modifications, to help you perform more effectively at work, in school, and in everyday life.
- Recommendations for support services, such as counseling, vocational assessment, and job training.
- Recommendations for instructional strategies that will be of most help to you.
- Civil rights protection that ensures your right to accommodations at work and in school, if you are a “qualified individual with a disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Documentation that will support your self-advocacy efforts.
The Three Steps of the LD Evaluation Process
Once you decide to be evaluated for LD, it’s helpful to know what to expect. In general, there are three steps in the evaluation process:
Step 1: The InterviewYou will meet with one or more qualified professionals who will ask you about your learning problems as well as your education, physical and mental health, and family and employment history. (Use our Interactive LD Checklist to start pinpointing your problem areas; share the results with the evaluator.) You should be honest in providing this information because it will help the evaluator(s) understand your background, strengths, and problem areas.
If after the interview it is decided that testing should be done, you’ll need to schedule a series of appointments with qualified specialists who can help pinpoint your learning problem.
Step 2: The EvaluationThe formal evaluation usually consists of a series of tests. These tests will allow the specialist(s) to profile your areas of strength and struggle and to identify whether or not you have a learning disability. After your learning profile is developed and the type of LD you have is uncovered, an evaluator will provide guidance as to what you should do next. (Evaluators are required to keep your records and testing information confidential.)
Step 3: RecommendationsThe single most important “take away” of the evaluation process is knowing what to do with your new learning profile. The evaluation should provide direction for employment, education, and daily living. You will receive a written report explaining the tests you took along with the results. If a learning disability is discovered, it will be documented in this report. The report should also include recommendations for learning strategies that may be most useful to you and it should name specific accommodations that will help you to compensate for, or work around, the effects of your disability. An accommodation such as assistive technology may help you be more successful (and feel less frustrated) in other aspects of your life
Be sure to keep a copy of this report in a place where you can find it easily because you will need it to request accommodations in school or at work. You might want to create a file folder and keep this report along with other information, such as your most recent school Individualized Education Program (if you had an IEP in school), medical history, work performance evaluations, and letters of reference from employers.
Who Pays for the LD Evaluation?
If you’re an adult being evaluated for LD for the first time, or if your previous LD documentation is more than a year old, you may have to assume the costs of being tested. (Recent high school graduates with up-to-date documentation of LD should not need additional testing to qualify for services and supports as an adult with LD.) Be sure to ask any prospective evaluators about options such as sliding-scale fees and payment plans. Here are some suggestions and resources to consider to help pay for an evaluation by a qualified professional.
- Check with your health insurance company. Some policies will cover part (or all) of the costs of an evaluation, particularly if there are other problems like emotional disorders or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder listed as reasons for referral. If you belong to an HMO, check to see if there is a psychologist or other professional on staff who can conduct an evaluation.
- Look into Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services available in your state. VR may offer evaluation services if your LD has caused you problems in getting or keeping a job. The key here is that you must be actively seeking employment.
- Find out if any local universities with graduate programs in special education or psychology have clinics that conduct evaluations. These are often offered at substantially reduced cost.
- Check with your local county or state adult education office. They may know of private practitioners who perform evaluations on a sliding scale or at reduced cost.
Moving Ahead with New Self-Awareness
By going through the LD evaluation process, you’ll learn something new about yourself. This information can help you plan for the assistance you need to succeed in school, at work, and in your personal life. Even if your evaluation results don’t indicate that you have LD, you will at least have a better understanding of your overall strengths and areas for improvement.