Learning disabilities are neurological disorders that result from the way the brain is “wired.” Most often they are genetically linked. Imagine the brain is like a computer. The keyboard and microphone would be the sensory organs that take in the information, and the computer is the central processing unit that processes the information that is delivered. While this is not a perfect analogy, it does provide the idea that the eyes and ears are the sense organs that take in visual and auditory information. The brain then has specific areas that process or make sense of that information. If there is a glitch in ones of those areas of the brain, then the person will have difficulty making sense of visual or auditory information. They will then have difficulty in one of these specific areas; reading decoding (the ability to sound out words), reading fluency, reading comprehension, written expression, oral expression (putting thoughts into words), understanding oral communication (listening), or mathematics.
Learning disabilities can be identified by psychological and educational tests. I usually begin by administering the WISC-V (Weschsler Intelligence Test for Children, 5th Edition) and the WIAT-III (Weschsler Individual Achievement Test, 3rd Edition) to get a sense of the child’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of how they think and how they learn. I also get a basic understanding of how they are doing in reading, writing and math on both timed and untimed tests. From that point I determine the rest of my assessment based on what aspect of their thinking and learning I need to know more about. For example if I want to know more about a child’s reading I will administer the FAR (Feifer Assessment of Reading).
Once I identify a child’s learning profile I can determine what kinds of services might be necessary to remediate any learning problems and to provide the scaffolding to support their growth and development.