As part of the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools are required to implement a system of interventions before evaluating a child for a disability. This process is called response to intervention, or RTI. Initially, teachers may meet with the parent and implement interventions before referring a child for learning disability testing. In fact, all of the decisions regarding testing or educational program planning for children with disabilities take place during a process of formal meetings, sometimes called IEP team meetings. If the parent and educators suspect a disability, they begin the testing process. Testing is necessary for children suspected of having a learning disability because:
- Learning disability testing is required by federal and state regulations to determine eligibility for special education;
- Learning disability testing provides important information about the child's suspected disability; and
- If the child qualifies, learning disability testing provides specific data for use in developing an Individual Education Program (IEP).
Learning disability testing is a complex processes of gathering information in all areas related to a student's suspected learning disability. Current federal regulations require that no more than sixty days should elapse from the time a student is referred for testing until the time the IEP is developed. To a parent, those sixty days of waiting for learning disability testing can seem like an eternity. What goes on during that time period? Depending on the area of disability and the unique questions surrounding each child, the learning disability testing may include:
- Review of educational records;
- Review of student work;
- Medical, vision, and hearing and audiological examination;
- Developmental and Social History;
- Fine and Gross Motor Evaluation;
- Adaptive Behavior;
- Speech and Language Assessment;
- Intellectual Ability or "IQ" tests;
- Assessment of Academic Skills;
- Social and Emotional Testing;
- Behavioral Testing; and
- Psychiatric Testing (in rare instances).
Who Conducts Testing for Learning Disabilities?
Testing may be provided by a variety of professionals as needed by the IEP team:
- Educational Diagnosticians;
- School Psychologists;
- Speech Pathologists;
- Medical Professionals;
- Occupational and Physical Therapists;
Learning about Disability Testing Results
In many cases, the evaluators issue written testing reports of their findings that are shared by the team. Some school districts provide testing results in one integrated report rather than individual reports from each practitioner. When possible, it is helpful for evaluators to attend IEP team meetings to share their results with team members and ask questions. As always, parent input and participation is very important to the IEP team decision making process.
Using Learning Disability Testing Results to Make Educational Decisions
IEP team members review the information from the testing results and use the findings to:
- Determine if the student's scores and other test results meet eligibility criteria for a learning disability established by the state;
- If the child qualifies, determine the diagnosis;
- Develop an IEP;
- Determine what specially designed instruction is needed; and
- If the child doesn't qualify, determine what other program supports or instructional interventions are available for assistance.