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Getting a Learning Disability Diagnosis as an Adult

Last updated: May 8, 2023

If you have concerns that you or someone in your life may have a learning disability, it is essential to talk with them about their abilities. Suppose they are experiencing difficulties and believe further assessment needs to be done. In that case, they can see if the GP will refer an individual for more intense examination by a clinical psychologist. These professionals know how to diagnose learning disabilities in adults. Also, they know how to overcome learning disabilities in adults. They might diagnose individuals based on assessing the intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior skills of the patient.

Adaptive behavior is a person's ability to reason, plan and problem solve. It includes conceptual skills such as reading, writing, and numeracy; social skills like interpersonal skills or self-esteem; practical tasks including daily living and safety routines. Intellectual functioning refers to how well an individual can learn new information about themselves in order to cope with their environment more successfully.

Gathering information on an individual's history and behavior is pivotal in determining whether they meet the criteria for a learning disability. This can also be used to help determine if it would be beneficial to provide one-on-one tutoring services or other interventions that could assist them with understanding new material better.

Diagnosing an adult for a learning disability

To reach a diagnosis, the GP or clinical psychologist may ask you about your:

  • Family and social history
  • Health problems during childhood
  • Medical history and current medication
  • Developmental history
  • Educational history
  • Mental health issues
  • Culture
  • Vision and hearing
  • Family interpretations of the person's difficulties
  • Previous cognitive assessments
  • Motor difficulties

Factors taken into account when conducting a diagnosis of intellectual behavior include:

  • The environment – Testing for a learning disability should take place in an environment free from distraction and with plenty of light.
  • Mental health – The assessment should be postponed until the person has been calmed down.
  • Medication – Some medications may interfere with tests, so they should be considered when learning about an individual's performance.
  • Fatigue – Fatigue robs us of our abilities, and tests should be given when we are well-rested.
  • Motivation – For any test to be considered valid, the individual must give them throughout.
  • Effort –The individual may deliberately underperform during an assessment in order to get access to benefits, services, or activities.
  • Language, culture, and ethnicity – If English is not your first language, the psychologist should acknowledge cultural differences and be aware of difficulties in interpretations.
  • Sensory and other impairments –Your cognitive performance may be impacted by physical, language, or sensory difficulties.

Want to learn more about the difference between autism and learning disabilities? Visit our article regarding the topic.

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