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Diagnosing a Learning Disability

Learning disabilities are traditionally diagnosed by conducting two tests and noticing a significant discrepancy between their scores. These tests are an in­telligence (or IQ) test and a standardized achievement (reading, writing, arith­metic) test. Most children found to have a learning disability have normal or above-normal intelligence but do not fully demonstrate that potential on achievement tests. For example, a youngster might score 112 on the full-scale IQ test, but her math score might be 90; this discrepancy of 22 points between her potential ability (IQ) and actual achievement (in math) might qualify her for special services at her school. Some states, for example, define a learning disability as a difference of 15 points, but the criteria for services vary from one part of the country to another. As a result, state-mandated definitions sometimes exclude a range of learning difficulties that do not produce wide discrepancies.

When a learning disability is not detected early, diagnosed correctly, and treated effectively, it can cause a number of other problems. These additional difficulties may be emotional, and a child can show signs of sadness, frustra­tion, or disappointment. Behavior problems like acting out might occur. Or the learning problems may show up within the family, causing, for example, mis­understandings, increased stress, or blaming others. Studies show that among children whose families seek professional help for emotional or behavioral problems, 30 to 50 percent of them have learning disabilities.

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Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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