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Screening - Should you be tested for LD?
 

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The Role of Screening
Screening Versus Diagnostic Testing
Determining When to Screen
The Screening Process
Screening Tools and Instruments

Bridges logoThe Role of Screening

In general, screening is done for a variety of reasons. For example, applicants for a driver's license must pass a vision-screening test to determine whether their vision meets the requirements for being able to drive safely. More specific information about the person's vision, and how to correct impairments, would require testing by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Other screening instruments, such as academic screening tests, contain only a small sample of items from a variety of subjects (e.g., reading, math or spelling). Because the number of items is small, it does not take a lot of time to do this kind of screening. However, the results of this kind of screening are inconclusive: they do not diagnose the learner's academic strengths and weaknesses in each skill area, but only give a rough estimate of the learner's overall skill levels.Screening instruments, including those for learning disabilities, have most or all of the following characteristics. They are

  • Helpful in determining the need for future testing;Inexpensive;Quick to administer, score, and interpret;Appropriate for large numbers of persons, and may sometime be administered in group settings;Narrow in purpose;Able to provide a superficial assessment of several areas, such as language, motor, or social skills; and
  • Usable without extensive training of staff.
Bridges logo Screening Versus Diagnostic testing

It is important to note here that screening is different from diagnostic testing. Screening results, by themselves, cannot determine the presence of learning disabilities. The results from screening are used by program staff and the learner to decide whether the learner should be referred for further testing with a diagnostic battery that could determine the presence of a learning disability. Screening for learning disabilities (1) is administered by adult education staff (e.g., literacy, One-Stop), and (2) answers the question, "Should this person be referred for further testing to determine if he or she has a learning disability?" Diagnostic testing, on the other hand, must be conducted by a qualified professional, such as a psychologist, clinician, or educational diagnostician, who is licensed to administer psycho educational batteries. One of the questions that diagnostic testing answers is, "Does this person have a learning disability?"

Only diagnostic testing, and not LD screening, can answer this question. The professional who administers the diagnostic testing prepares a written report which indicates the nature of the learning disability and makes recommendations for further actions, including appropriate interventions for the learner to meet with success.

Bridges logoDetermining When to Screen

Screening can be administered at any time during the instructional cycle if the practitioner or the learner identifies the need. The practitioner's direct observation of the learner during instruction is probably the best source of information about the learner's likelihood of having a learning disability. However, program staff can elect to use an LD screening instrument to collect additional information about the learner. Literacy programs should have clear policies about screening for learning disabilities. For example, one option would be to conduct screening during the intake process for every adult who enters the program. The advantage of this policy is that you do not need to obtain the learners' informed consent. It is only when a procedure such as screening is used selectively for some, but not all learners, that you must obtain informed consent before you can legally proceed.The disadvantage of conducting screening uniformly for all learners is that the procedure adds time to the intake process, although not everyone who enters an adult literacy program needs to be screened. Programs may find it more helpful to have the teacher or tutor work with learners first by observing each learner's progress and then refer for screening only those persons who are not making the expected progress.

Click here for observational checklists that can be used during the instructional process.

Bridges logo The Screening Process

If your program elects not to uniformly screen for learning disabilities for all learners, then you need a process for determining whether and when to selectively screen specific learners. Such a process involves the following steps.

  • Gather information about the learner.Review the observations with the learner.Determine how the learner feels about additional screening.Select a screening instrument.Obtain informed consent.
  • Summarize the results of the screening with the learner and discuss 'next steps'. If screening results indicate possible LD, a learner may or may not decide to be referred for Diagnostic Testing; that is the learner's decision.
Screening Instruments

"The practitioner's direct observation of the learner during instruction is probably the best source of information about the learner's likelihood of having a learning disability." (Bridges to Practice, Guidebook 2: The Assessment Process. Page 17)

Observation Checklists

Observation is a key component of the LD screening process. Checklists can be used in the screening process, helping teachers and learners to become more informed observers of possible learning disabilities and providing documentation for a more formal screening or referral for diagnostic testing. Florida's Bridges to Practice Web-based Training suggests the kinds of things to look for in adults with possible LD. The National Center for Learning Disabilities offers a checklist of common warning signs of learning disabilities from childhood through adulthood. Click here for a sample checklist developed by The American Council on Education and the National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center.

Information Checklists for teachers and learners

Screening Instruments

Listing of Screening Instruments:

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