In my 15 years as a special education teacher and consultant, I have often been asked what testing can be done to determine if a child has a learning disability. When an infant or child is suspected of having a learning disability, the initial screening begins with testing of hearing and vision. If either of these show a deficit, the parent will be advised to take the child for the appropriate professional to be further tested. If the child is determined to need glasses or hearing aids, these must be obtained before further testing can be done.
Once the vision and hearing test is either passed or the appropriate intervention done, the child will be tested further. Depending on the age and purpose of testing, the child will be tested using developmental scales, speech and vocabulary tests, cognitive ability tests, and achievement tests. All tests will be evaluated for any deviation from the norm and will be compiled into a report to determine if the child indeed has a learning disability. In almost every case when a child’s difficulties are significant enough that there is a question of a disability, there is some degree of deficit.
One such category of tests is developmental scales, designed to measure skills or emerging skills in children from birth to age seven, and for older children with severe cognitive impairment. One such test is the BASC, or Behavior Assessment System for Children. This test measures developmental milestones that are recognized as appropriate for the average child at certain ages. The test is for ages two to twenty-one. It is highly recognized by many schools and clinical psychologists.
Another common developmental scale is the Peabody Developmental Scales – Children. This test is for ages birth to age seven. The results give an age equivalent functioning level. There are a large number of developmental scales. Some of the more recognized ones include the Battelle Developmental Inventory Screening, the Battelle Developmental Inventory, the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, the Brigance for varying age levels, and the Vineland Social-Emotional Early Childhood Scales.
Other specialized screening tests and assessments include those to test for sensory deficits, pervasive developmental delays, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and other developmental disorders that might have a negative impact on the child’s functioning in school.
Children and infants being tested for possible learning disabilities will also be given a variety of speech/language tests. Some of the more common ones I have seen used, or have used, include the following:
- Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Revised (CELF-3)
- Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation (G-FTA)
- Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – III (PPVT-III)
- Structured Photographic Expressive Language Test ( SPELT)
- Token Test for Children (TOKEN)
- OWLS: Listening Comprehension (LC) Scale & Oral Expression (OE) Scale
Achievement tests are also often given. These include elements of reading, math, language, writing, and written and oral expression. Some of the more common of these include:
- Weschler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT)
- Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-III)
- Peabody Individual Achievement Test-Revised (PIAT-R)
- Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, Second Edition (KTEA-II)
- Test of Early Reading Ability (TERA-3)
- Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised (WRMT-R)
- Key Math-III
Cognitive ability tests (was called IQ or intelligence tests) are also given to measure the ability of the child to achieve and to compare the compare the achievement to the ability. A discrepancy in the two scores determines the presence of a learning disability. Some of the more common ones are:
- Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III)
- CTONI: Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence
- Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test (KAIT)
- Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT)
- Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAI
- Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (Kaufman-ABC)
Other tests I have either used, or seen used, : when there is indications that the child may possibly have autism include:
- Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)
- Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale (ASDS)
Once the test results are tabulated, the psychometrist compiles the information into a report that is explained to the parent in terms they can understand, enabling them to give informed consent for possible services, which are then offered to the child by local school systems based on their age and need. Services are provided as needed from ages birth to twenty-one. Children from birth to age three are usually served in their home setting. Children from three to twenty-one are served in a school setting, beginning with a preschool program and continuing until the child graduates or reaches age twenty-one, as needed.
In my years as a special education teacher, including my work with children from birth to age five, I have used many of these assessment instruments, and have seen reports of the others after a psychometrist compiles a report. The tests provide a detailed picture of deficits and help in planning remediation and instruction.