As per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004), a learning disability is defined as "a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which the disorder may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations." Individuals found to have a Specific Learning Disability most often receive school-based special education support and services. In order to determine the existence of such disabilities, referred students must undergo a psycho-educational evaluation.

Assess Learning Disabilities

Assess the individual's intellectual functioning by administering an aptitude test. Most commonly, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children: Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) or Stanford Binet Intelligence Scales: Fifth Edition (SB5) are utilized. Score the intelligence assessment, paying special attention to the Full Scale IQ (FSIQ).

Assess the individual's academic functioning by administering an achievement test. Most commonly, the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test: Third Edition (WIAT-III), Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement: Third Edition (WJ-III) or Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement: Second Edition (KTEA-II) are used. The achievement assessment will evaluate an individual's ability in reading, mathematics, written language, listening skills and oral language.

Determine the discrepancies between ability and achievement. To qualify for a learning disability, individuals must display a severe difference between ability (IQ) and actual performance in achievement. Many achievement-test-scoring programs offer statistical output that will help make the determination of discrepant scores.

Determine the need for special education services. When qualifying individuals for learning support, the student must meet a two-prong criteria. Not only must the person have a discrepancy between ability and achievement, he must also demonstrate a need for services. This can be determined by looking at school grades and state/local assessments, as well as other factors.

Review the results and all considerations with a team of professionals. This often includes the school psychologist, special education direction, classroom teacher and parent.

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  • If you feel your child or student may have a learning disability, discuss your concerns with the school district. You may want to refer the child for a psycho-educational evaluation.


  • Intellectual and achievement evaluations can only be administered by qualified professionals, most often school psychologists. If you have questions or concerns about testing results, contact the examiner. Additionally, special education requirements may vary by state. To determine the criteria for your state, contact your state department of education.

Things Needed

  • Intellectual assessment
  • Achievement assessment
  • Scoring software

About the Author

Kelly Crawford began writing in 2007. She contributes to numerous psycho-educational evaluation reports. She received her Bachelors of Arts in psychology as well as her Master of Science and Education Specialist Certification in school psychology from the California University of Pennsylvania. Crawford is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist working within the intermediate unit.