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Evaluation / LD Testing

The following are past questions and answers from Dr. Larry Silver on this topic.

I think my coworker has an undiagnosed learning disability. How can I help him recognize it?

Both my husband and I work with a friend. Over the years, we've noticed things about him — very poor listening, speaking, and writing skills; poor understanding and organization of information; and poor time management, to name a few.

Lately the penny dropped with us when we noticed that he's developed quite a set of avoidance mechanisms that deflect attention from his lack of understanding or skill. In the past, he's been able to fly under the radar; but things have changed at work lately, and that's no longer the case. We're on an important project where he's in over his head. He's really struggling, the project is floundering as a result, and management is noticing.

Is there anything we can do as friends? How do you suggest to someone who is in deep denial that he may have a learning disability? He shuts down when he senses "criticism", or any kind of detection.

Your friend is lucky to have people who care about him. How did he get this far in life? How have you been able to accept his level of function or lack of function? I don't know how to break through his avoidance and get him to do something. Maybe he will have to fail and lose his job before he wakes up and realizes he has to do something. Good luck.

Is there a correlation between gluten ataxia and learning disabilities?

My daughter has been diagnosed with gluten ataxia. After some research into learning disabilities, I see that she probably also has this challenge. The professionals that work with her for the ataxia do not seem to help much in the area of LD. Have you come across other children with L.D. and ataxia? Any insight would be helpful.

I am not familiar with gluten ataxia. You should ask the professional(s) who made the diagnosis if cognitive difficulties might be associated with this disorder. The only way to clarify if she might have learning disabilities would be to have formal testing done. If testing has not yet been done, discuss this need with her principal.

My first grader has trouble focusing and is falling behind in reading and math. How can I help him succeed?

My son is 6. He just started first grade at a public elementary school. He is struggling. His reading and math are not to grade level. He zones out and cannot answer simple questions.

He was read a word problem by his teacher: John has five apples and Sue has four apples. How many apples altogether? He drew 20 apples on the paper. He is on a PEP at school and goes to tutoring every Monday for an hour after school. I am worried about him not passing the first grade. What should I do?

I understand your concerns. You describe several difficulties that might suggest that your son might have a learning or language disability. If he is in a PEP program, the professionals at the program probably share a similar concern. Have you discussed your concerns with them? Usually several professionals are part of the PEP team. Another approach would be to meet with the principal of his school, requesting a meeting with the special education team to discuss what they see as his problems and what they are doing to address them. Do not lose time. Keep pushing to get clarification on what his areas of difficulty are and what can be done to help.

My child seems to have trouble with major tests. Could this be a sign of a learning disability?

My son has always been the type of kid who kept himself busy, making things, drawing, music. I noticed in his high school years his marks were inconsistent. He'd do well in his writing assignments and usually the homework, but on his major tests he'd door poorly. He commented that when he was doing his SATs, there was a boy sniffling with a cold and that the noise threw off his thinking. He got a low score. He doesn't like to read books unless they have to do with music; but when he argues, I can tell he's a smart kid.

His pre-calculus course in senior year he did pretty well except for the testing, where he didn't seem to transfer the concepts he knew. Now he's anticipating college with his first year in media design. Does he sound like someone who should be tested? If so, what type of place should I go to?

I cannot be specific based on the information you've provided. What have the school professionals been concerned about over the years? Yes, formal psycho-educational or neuro-psychological testing would be helpful in clarifying some of your questions. If the results are not helpful, he should be evaluated by a mental health professional.

My child's Woodstock Johnson test results changed dramatically since his last assessment. Is this normal?

My son was administered the Woodcock Johnson tests at the end of fifth grade and again at the end of ninth grade. His scores declined in 6 out of the 9 subtests. Most notable were decreases in the Broad Written Language (down 8 points) and Written Expression (down 12 points) subtests. Is this pretty unusual? Do you have any idea of what could be going on here?

I share your concern. I do not have enough information to generalize an answer. Discuss your concerns with the professional who did the testing or with a private educational consultant.

What type of testing is done to determine if a child has a learning disability?

My son has struggled in school his whole life. I have tried to get him tested for learning disabilities but cannot. My son is now in the 11th grade, and the high school psychologist agreed to test in December.

We met in the middle of March to discuss the results, and she said his test results showed that he is capable of doing the work. She said an average score was between 85 and 100, and most all of his scores were in that range. But when she started reading off some of the result categories, they were all academic tests (i.e., algebra, reading comprehension, etc). This was not what I expected; I thought learning disability testing was something more abstract.

I'm wondering… what kind of educational testing should I expect the school to use in determining whether or not my son has a learning disability?

A comprehensive assessment should consist of an intellectual assessment and an educational assessment. Perhaps you can get a copy of the studies done by the school and seek a second opinion from a psychologist experienced in doing psycho-educational or neuro-psychological assessments.

One of my middle school students has severe learning disabilities and cannot write sentences independently. How can I help her?

I have a 6th grade student that is functioning on a pre-primer level. She recognizes letters but does not know all letter sounds. She can copy sentences and paragraphs from the board; but when asked to write, she has no word formation.

She uses "chunks" of letters and often puts spaces to create "words" and uses punctuation. Yesterday, she wrote: "deu dreus als kit petip fim dea yan et jit on a u ej and seu tok a uejes sosi of lr ret and seu yor hr sos: snd seu uod hafr kefmbakand sue" in response to the question: "What happened to Dorothy's house when the cyclone hit?"

I am trying to help her; but when we have success, she seems to forget everything just minutes later. I have never seen this before, and I am wondering how I can get help for this child. Thank you for caring.

This student needs a full psycho-educational evaluation to clarify why she is having these problems. If you teach in a public school, suggest that the girl's parents request from the principal that a comprehensive evaluation be done. If you teach in a private school, advise the parents that they can request such studies from the principal of the public school she would have gone to. I am going to guess that studies have been done but that you have not been provided with the information known about her. If true, ask to review her records.

Is it true that IQ remains the same after age 5?

Is it true that IQ remains the same after age 5? In reviewing my daughter's school psycho-educational assessment reports, she's received two pretty different IQ scores. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children was used at age 11: score of 87. And the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale was used at age 17: score of 70.

Would two different types of tests produce two different scores? If so, how can we know at what level she is truly performing?

IQ tests measure basic intellectual abilities. However, parts of these tests also measure skills that are expected to be present at specific ages. Also, the format for the Wechsler and the Binet is different, possibly measuring different basic skills/abilities. I would suggest that you sit down with the psychologist who did the most recent testing and ask this professional to clarify the differences in IQ scores.

Who diagnoses an auditory processing disorder?

My son is 9 years old. His teacher questioned whether he has an auditory processing disorder. The school is going to test him shortly but everyone tells me I should have it done privately instead. It is not covered under insurance.

If his school tests him, is there a specific or more thorough assessment that I as a parent could ask for? Thanks.

Speech and language therapists evaluate for a possible auditory processing difficulty. Most health insurance companies will pay for this assessment. But you should also discuss your concerns with the principal of his school, and request that the school's speech and language therapist see your son.

How can I get a 4-year-old who can only say three words tested?

How can I get an assessment or evaluation for a child who has turned 4 but can only say three words? I think he is too old for the Babies Can't Wait program.

Under the public law, IDEA, every public school program must have a Child Find program to evaluate children ages 3 to 5 who appear to be delayed in any area of development prior to entering kindergarten. Speak with the principal of your neighborhood school about how to register for Child Find.

Can ADHD meds help with an auditory processing disorder?

My fifth-grade son failed two subtests for auditory processing. I do not know if we are dealing with ADHD. We have tried ADHD meds and he says that he can hear the teacher better.

Is there any evidence to indicate that ADHD meds would impact auditory processing? Everything I've read seems to indicate no, but he insists that is the one difference for him.

You ask good questions; however, I cannot be specific. You need to sit down with the person who diagnosed him with an auditory processing problem and ask these questions. Usually, such an area of difficulty would interfere with reading skills and writing skills (e.g., spelling).

There are other questions to ask this person. What two tests did he fail and what does this mean? Did you do any other studies to see if he has areas of learning difficulty? Push to get clarification.

I spend hours helping my daughter with her schoolwork each night, so she appears to be doing better than she is. How do I get the school to test her without letting her fail?

Dr. Silver,

I would love some advice on how to help my daughter.

At this time she has had no formal diagnosis of a learning disability. She is now in second grade and it seems she struggles with everything. I work a lot with her and try to help her understand things, but she never seems to quite "get it."

It now results in tears, frustration, and her thinking she is stupid and hating school. With the huge amount of work we do at home she has managed to be passing her classes, but I don't know that she is really learning.

She barely passed on into first grade because she was having a lot of problems in reading and was behind. That summer I sought the help of a friend who tutors kids in reading using a program that is supposed to be great for learning disabilities. With her help and a lot of work at home, we got her to grade level in reading.

All of her teachers so far have said that they can't quite put their finger on it — she is very hit or miss with things. One day she seems to know it, but then the next she doesn't. She still reverses letters a lot in reading and spelling. I have been told that she should grow out of this — but when?

At this time she struggles greatly with math. She seems to not understand how numbers work. My 5-year-old is able to do a lot of the work she can now do, because of just overhearing all the work I do with her. This is sending up a red flag to me. I know the schools are hard-pressed for the funds to do a lot of what is needed and I hate to waste their time. But that being said, I want to see my daughter get help and not have to work so hard if there is something we can do.

Unfortunately, the problems have not been bad enough for a teacher to say we need to test, but I wonder if I slacked off at home if they would be. It is a terrible place as a mother to be feeling like you need to let your child fail so she can get noticed.

Should I push the school into testing? Do you have any suggestions in helping me figure out what is going on? Thanks for any help you may be able to give.

I share your concerns. From your description, your daughter might have a learning disability. You are correct. By spending so much time with her each night, she appears to be doing better than she really is. Yet, you do not want to take away this help and have her do poorly just to show the school what you mean.

She should be evaluated. A psycho-educational assessment would be best. The first step is to submit a written letter to the principal, requesting a meeting to discuss your concerns with your daughter. The principal is required under education law to schedule this meeting. The classroom teacher, principal, school counselor, and special education person should be present. Share your concerns, using as many examples as you can. Be sure to explain just how much work you do each night. If the school agrees, they will do a formal assessment.

I need to warn you. Most school systems will not evaluate a child until the end of third grade. It is only then that they show enough of a discrepancy to meet their criteria for doing an assessment. If so, you might explore if it is possible to have these studies done privately and then take the results to the school.

Good luck.

Is LD passed on to offspring?

I was diagnosed with LD in math and reading when I was in eighth grade. Recently, my daughter has had problems with reading and writing. She is 6 years old and I was just wondering if LD is passed on to offspring.

There is a strong family pattern for learning disabilities. I would encourage you to keep a close eye on your daughter. If she continues to struggle, ask the school to evaluate her for possible learning disabilities.

Who should I go to first to find out if my child has dyslexia — the school or an outside professional?

How does one find out if their child has dyslexia? I have approached the teachers regarding this and they told me to seek help outside school. Yet when I speak to professionals outside school they say it is up to the school to test the child. Can you give me advice to help my daughter before she falls any further behind in school? She is entering third grade.

Thank you,


Submit a letter to the principal requesting a meeting to discuss your child's difficulties. The principal must schedule this meeting within 30 days. At the meeting, present your concerns and ask that the school evaluate her to clarify if she has learning disabilities. The principal must respond by either agreeing or saying that the school will observe her and test her if she continues to have problems. If you disagree, you can request an appeal process.

My son reverses letters and can't see the difference between adding and subtracting. He wears glasses but they don't seem to help. Where do I take him next?

My son of 8 years old shows symptoms of learning disabilities. At first, his teachers thought it was due to vision problems. He is wearing glasses and still doesn't show improvements.

He reverses letters and numbers and has problems with reading. He also cannot see the difference between adding and subtracting, no matter how I teach him. I don't know if I should bring him to a psychologist or neurologist.

Please help! Thanks.

The problems you describe are not the result of a vision problem. They might be the result of a learning disability. I would start with a psychologist who is skilled at doing the necessary studies to clarify why he has such problems.

My daughter takes AP classes and gets good grades but shows signs of a learning disability. How do we get her tested?

I have a 12-year-old daughter who has shown signs of dyslexia for the past six years. She was finally tested and diagnosed through our school this year.

I also have a 15-year-old daughter who will be going into the tenth grade and is very concerned about also having symptoms of dyslexia. She has always been in honors classes and is presently in all AP classes for next year. She works extremely hard to make A's, but struggles with spelling and her handwriting has been bad in the past (although it is improving).

She always gets a bad grade when she has to write an essay. She says she struggles at putting her thoughts together, etc. She also had trouble in geometry — she had to check the formulas over and over because she transposed numbers very easily.

She is very concerned about having to take the PSAT and SAT and worried she'll get a bad grade on the essay portion of the test. She took the SAT in seventh grade as part of the Duke Talented Identification Program and scored very well except on the survey part.

What can I do to get her tested? Considering she makes A's in honors classes, I doubt that the school district would readily test her. This is the problem I had with my youngest daughter. She compensated well and we had tutors, and it would take us hours to do homework, but she would make A's. It wasn't until this year, when she didn't pass the standardized mandated Texas test and was failing, that the district finally tested her.

You are correct that formal testing would be the only way to clarify if your older daughter has a disability. It might be that she has learning disabilities that are reflected in a different way than with your younger daughter.

Since she is doing so well in public school, I doubt you could get these studies done there. You will have to find a private psychologist (or diagnostic team) to do the psycho-educational testing. The results will help you find out what your daughter might need. These data would be required if you requested accommodations for the PSAT or SAT.

Is a British psycho-educational evaluation valid in the U.S.?

Our family is about to move to the U.S. and our son is experiencing difficulty in school. His teachers have suggested a psycho-educational evaluation, which would be carried our by a British educational psychologist.

Will this report be valid and useful in the U.S. or will my son need to be assessed again at his new school? We don't want to stress our son with two assessments. We will be moving in December.



If time allows, I would recommend that you have someone do the psycho-educational evaluation in the country (and city) where you will be living. The results would be more relevant to the U.S. school system.

If you plan to enter your son in a public school rather than a private school, it is possible that the principal of this public school would agree to have the school's professionals do the testing.

How can we help a gifted fifth grader who is forgetful and lacks organization?

Dr. Silver,

I really hope you can help steer us in the right direction in seeking help for our daughter. She is in the 5th grade and has been tested as gifted (IQ of 135). She goes to a private school and is in a gifted pull-out program (one day per week), which she loves.

She is struggling mightily this year with organization. Her grades are just OK, but her effort is definitely lacking. She is not working up to her potential.

She says she is trying her hardest, but her teacher thinks that she does not use her time wisely and does not listen attentively. Her desk is the messiest in the class and no system of organization has seemed to help her. She generally does her work but often "forgets" to turn it in. Her handwriting is awful. I constantly have to remind her to head her paper and mind the margins.

I am at my wit's end with trying to get her to be more organized and responsible, and always give school her best effort. I should mention that she also suffers from anxiety. She has been in therapy for two years and is currently being medicated for it. The anxiety seems to be under control.

I don't know what else to do to help her or what kind of professional to turn to for help. I would love any advice you could give me. Thank you so much for your time and attention.

Respectfully yours,


Most of the difficulties you describe suggest what is called executive function disorder — difficulty with organization of materials, tasks, and time. She also appears to have a fine-motor problem that is affecting her handwriting. It is important that the reasons for these problems be clarified.

She will need a psycho-educational evaluation. The results will explain why she is underachieving and what to do to help her. You are in a private school; however, you are entitled to services from the public school system. Meet with the principal of the public school she would have gone to and request that she be evaluated. The principal must schedule a meeting to discuss your daughter's difficulties. If the principal denies your request for such studies, you may have to have it done privately.

Do not wait until she is in middle school. Her problems will only become worse. Have her evaluated now so that the right help can be introduced now.

My 6-year-old son is reversing letters and numbers. Should I get him tested?

I have a 6-year-old son that is having trouble at school. He reads a lot of common words backwards, such as reading pan for nap or dull for pull. He can do basic math, but if the answer is 32, sometimes he'll write 23.

It was upsetting me that he was making simple mistakes because he wouldn't take the time to look at things, and then I noticed he was having trouble focusing his eyes. I had his vision tested and it's fine.

I asked his teacher if she would refer him to get tested for a learning disability. She told me the school's waiting list is about 60 days. Am I going about it the right way by getting him tested? Where do I go from here? Can my son's doctor have him tested or refer me to a testing center? What kind of test do you do to identify learning disabilities? I feel completely lost and worry that I am failing my son. Please help!

Sometimes, 6 year olds still reverse letters and numbers. If this is his only problem, you might wait a little longer. If, however, you find that he is not mastering his first grade skills (reading, writing, math), then I would not wait.

Don't discuss this with the teacher. The process is for you to write a letter to the principal, requesting a meeting to discuss your son's difficulties. The principal must call such a meeting. The school psychologist and special education person will be present. Discuss your concerns with this team. If they agree, they will schedule testing. If they do not feel testing is needed now, you will still have focused everyone on his difficulties. If in the fall he has not made progress, request another meeting.

You can always have him evaluated privately. The testing is called psycho-educational testing.

My son had the precursors for dyslexia in preschool two years ago but is reading well now. Should I still be concerned?

My 6-year-old son was evaluated in 2007 by a neuropsychologist. She determined that he does have the precursors for dyslexia and what appeared to be the beginnings of it. I then had him evaluated for dyslexia and pre-screened for the Barton Reading and Spelling System. He is very intelligent and is reading above grade level. He can write, but it takes him time. His school refuses to believe he has dyslexia.

Where can I find more information to prove he has dyslexia even though he can read and write?

Your child was tested when he was in preschool. The results were based on levels of expected performance for that age. It may be that what was seen as a weakness then (precursor), improved with maturation and is not an issue now. You say he can read and write at grade level. So, he does not appear to have any deficits that might suggest dyslexia at this time.

It is difficult to use these data to assess if he has learning disabilities. I suggest that you stop pushing for a diagnosis (dyslexia) and ask the school to help clarify if he has any problems at this time.

Should a 6-year-old boy who struggles with reading be evaluated?

Hi Dr. Silver,

How early can a child be tested for disabilities? I have a 6-year-old boy who is now in first grade and struggling with reading. He reads below grade level and is unable to comprehend what he reads.

When he was in kindergarten, I was told that something was not right, but they didn't know what it was. So, in first grade I have been pushing the school. We are now going to do testing for learning disabilities. They said that they do not think anything will show up because of his age and that they will recommend retention.

This is so frustrating! He currently has B's in everything except reading, in which he has a D and sometimes an F. Is it too early to tell?

If your child is struggling with reading, testing should clarify why and how best to help him. If he is doing well in all other areas, retention may not be recommended. He might continue on to second grade but receive remedial help for the rest of this year and for next year. And, if you wish, you can supplement this help by getting the right private help over the summer.

Don't let your fear of retention stop the school from clarifying why he is struggling with reading. Only with this information will the appropriate interventions be clarified.

How can I prove to my workplace that I have a learning disability if my high school records don't indicate a diagnosis?

Hi and thank you for taking my question. I'm an adult male in my late 30's. I was diagnosed with a learning disability in the early 1970s. I was in special education classes from elementary school through high school. Just recently, I put in a request for my high school to send me copies of my transcript to see if they had me listed as an LD student. They responded by saying that at that time, they didn't use the terminology of a learning disability. My high school transcripts show that indeed I was in special education classes, but do not list a learning disability.

I want information about my diagnosis because I want my workplace to know that I have a learning disability. I have no other record about my disability and I know my workplace will want something in writing or on file. Any suggestions about what I can do to prove my case?

Thanks for your advice,


Gerald: You are correct in needing documentation if you are to use the Americans With Disabilities Act to request accommodations at work. The federal law that established a formal need for special education services was not passed until the mid-1970s. Thus, your school may have provided special education services without the formal documentation needed today. Also, many schools kept a formal record on each student that could be read and released to the proper people and a confidential record that contained any testing or evidence of a disability.

Most important to you is that when you request accommodations based on the ADA, you need evaluations that are not more than three years old. Thus, you will have to find out who does formal studies, known as psycho-educational evaluations, for adults with learning disabilities in your area. The professional who does these studies will help you document your disabilities as they relate to work.

I have a learning disability and suspect my 7-year-old daughter does, too. I want to get her tested but my husband thinks we should wait. What do you suggest?

My daughter is 7 years old and young for her second grade class. As a past special education teacher, I am pretty sure I have a learning disability (never formally diagnosed) and I'm pretty sure my daughter has one, too. She struggles in school. And after reading the information on visual processing, this seems to fit my daughter and me perfectly.

We've seen her problems increase since preschool - difficulty with writing, flipping of letters (I still do this!), finding relevant information in reading, writing quickly, and judging distances. Teachers have noticed her problems but have always brushed them off because she is young. My husband wishes to wait to see how she does in three years.

My problem is that I know how hard school was for me and I don't want my daughter going through the same thing. To make things more complicated, she also has strabismus (a vision condition in which the eyes are misaligned) and juvenile diabetes. Should I push to have her tested at the very least? Or wait as my husband suggests? Thanks!

Your daughter has real problems and needs help now. Your history only reinforces this fact. Try to explain to your husband that the "wait until she fails" tactic not only delays getting her the help she needs now but does a real number on her self-esteem. (If this does not work, get a copy of my book, The Misunderstood Child: A Guide for Parents of Children With Learning Disabilities, and ask that he read it.)

She needs a formal assessment that might include psychological, educational, and occupational therapy testing. These data will clarify the areas of difficulty and the types of interventions needed.

Don't give up. Push for a formal assessment to clarify her areas of difficulty and the types of services needed. If you are not successful with the school and you cannot afford private testing, seek a private educational consultant to advise you on your rights.

What can you do if you suspect the child you're advocating for has a learning disability but the school refuses to test?

Hello and thank you for such a wonderful resource! I am a former teacher and school psychologist. I'm currently providing supplemental reading instruction and trying to advocate for my second grade niece.

She has a long history typical of a child with a specific learning disability or dyslexia. Her language development was slow, particularly with regard to articulation. Letter and number recognition was difficult and her general phonemic awareness still has not been mastered in spite of consistent and systematic reading instruction for the past six months. She has trouble expressing herself with the appropriate vocabulary and word sequence.

When she reads, besides the usual misread words, she still confuses b and d and she often substitutes synonyms for words (i.e. house for home, mom for mother, dumb for stupid, etc.). Independent homework completion is impossible because she cannot read the directions accurately.

She was retained in kindergarten and now is receiving extra small-group reading instruction at school three times a week. Even so, the school has yet to initiate communication or collaboration with her mother or me. The only reason we knew about the extra reading group was because it was mentioned during parent/teacher conferences.

When her mother asked if it might be time to refer her for a special education evaluation, they said she could request it but probably wouldn't get it because her daughter's problems aren't that bad. I'm concerned that all the help my neice has received will ultimately prevent her from qualifying for special education because the school only uses the discrepancy model (and she may be too young to show a significant discrepancy).

Is it enough that a student's mother and advocate suspect the presence of a disability to get the special education evaluation? I've worked in three different states and never heard of a school denying a parent request for an initial evaluation.

Also, can I, as her advocate, make the case from the vantage point of Response to Intervention that she has a learning disability? Or should we stop helping her and let her fall further behind in order to access the services she needs at school? We cannot afford a private evaluation and because I'm not currently employed, I don't think they are going to take my opinion too seriously. I hope you can help!

First, please do not stop helping her. She should not have to experience any more pain than she is experiencing already. I suspect that she is in a school system that waits until the child fails third grade before they do any testing. Why? As you mentioned, they use a discrepancy formula to determine if a student has a learning disability. And, the student has to have failed third grade before he/she is far enough behind to meet this discrepancy. I hate this "wait until you fail before we will evaluate or formally help" you strategy.

Have her parents send a formal letter to the principal requesting a meeting to discuss their daughter's academic difficulties. This request must be in writing. The principal must schedule the meeting within 30 calendar days. The principal, appropriate school professionals, the teacher, and parents should attend this meeting. (You can come as well.) At this meeting, her parents should formally request testing to find out why their daughter is struggling. If the school agrees - great. These studies will be done and then shared with the parents.

If they do not agree to do testing at this time, have the parents say, "This decision is not acceptable to us. We wish to have the minutes of the meeting reflect that we do not agree. And, we would like to be informed of our right to appeal this decision." The school must comply with these requests. Prior to seeing someone within the appeal process, seek help from a private educational consultant on what to say.

Good luck. Your niece is very lucky to have you for her aunt.

What can we do for a bright ninth grade student who does not qualify for services but is failing most of his classes?

We have a 15-year-old that has been tested through the school system two times and all they seem to come up with is immaturity. We have consulted with a child psychologist who thought, after reviewing his prior evaluations, our son may have a problem with his executive thought process. Because of insurance issues we could not continue with the psychologist.

We have turned back to the school district. They are in the process of evaluating him again for the third time.

Our son is thoughtful, caring, and loving, and he is a self-taught percussionist. He loves to play the drums and the African djembi. He plays amazingly well! He loves to write poetry and song lyrics. I think he is quite gifted. But he can't make it in school.

He's in 9th grade and only passed English and Gym. He tries very hard and when he fails he tends to give up. He says "Mom why do I have to try so hard?" Please help us with a suggestion on what we can do for him. Where should we turn next?

Thank you,


Dear Anne: I feel for you. Your son sounds like he has difficulties. The important question is why. If he only passed English in his current grade, this means that he failed at least four other major subjects. You are correct. You do need to find out why.

Here is what I suggest: First, clarify with your school professionals what testing they plan to do. At a minimum, these studies should include an IQ test (usually the Wechsler) and a battery of educational testing. If they do not plan to do this, ask why. Second, request that you receive a copy of the results of these studies before you meet with the school to discuss them. You need to review the results with an educational consultant. It is important to learn what is going on and to rely on other inputs.

If you cannot find a consultant on your own, contact the Learning Disabilities Association of America and get the name and phone number of your closest chapter. (go to www.ldaamerica.org - click on your state for the state chapter then look for information on your closest chapter).

Don't give up on your son. Best of success.

How can I parent a 5-year-old with multiple diagnoses?

What should I do with my 5-year-old child? He has been tested and the people who did the testing told us that he has early warning signs of dyslexia, an undeveloped central nervous system, and the fine motor skills of a 2-year-old. They haven't told us what to do or how to parent such a child. He goes to an occupational therapist two times a week for the fine motor problems.

Unfortunately, he is also having severe temper tantrums at school and at home. He won't sleep by himself. He has issues going to the bathroom. If I am not home, he goes in his pants. I just want somebody to either let me know these issues are normal in kids his age or what I can do to parent a child with severe emotional outbursts all day. I am exhausted and afraid I have him in the wrong learning environment. Please give me some insight if you could.

I can appreciate your concerns and frustration. What you describe is not normal. You need to act. First, it will be important to fully understand what learning, language, and/or motor problems he has. With this information, it might be possible to find professionals to improve the areas of weakness and to advise you on ways to help him. These studies might be done by your school professionals. Since he is five, you should discuss the need for such assessments with the principal of your local public school. Or, you might have the studies done privately. Without this information, it is difficult to know how best to help your child.

What is a good reaction for a parent to have when the school wants the child tested and they are not sure it is a good idea?

Today at a parent teacher conference, my second grader's private school is suggesting psycho-educational testing due to his behavior issues in class and want us to meet with their resource teacher and principal. They report that he sometimes refuses to do work, talks out of place, and doesn't listen. In essence, he has a bit of an attitude — which, of course, we address at home through consequences for poor behavior and rewards for positive behavior. The negative behaviors were evident in kindergarten and first grade, but seem to be improving each year. I thought these improvements meant he was simply growing up.

I am concerned about their request for testing at this point. He is a straight A student with a history of excellent grades, can sit still, can focus in spite of distractions, and has a rich social life. I am worried that the school is “jumping” to test him out of frustration as he makes them work a little harder. They have not suggested that he is “gifted” and in need of more challenging work.

I suspect many school personnel push for diagnosis and medication to make their job easier, and believe many children are unnecessarily diagnosed and medicated in this country. I fear a label and a diagnosis for my son that will hurt him rather than help him. I want to tread carefully, while respecting the schools opinion. I simply want what's best for my son. I intend on having an independent evaluation — not with the professional the school recommends. What advice can you offer me?

May I start with your comment that you want what is best for your son. I also believe that his teacher and principal also want what is best for your son. This shared desire needs to be the starting point. Sit down with them and listen to their concerns. You mention that he has had similar problems since kindergarten; thus, if the school professionals are concerned again this year, something needs to be clarified. Ask questions about what they are observing in class. Share what you are seeing at home. Try to find common ground on what the current concerns are and think through with them why these concerns might exist.

I believe that behavior is a message. Our task is to find out what message your son is sending. Why does he show an attitude? Why does he sometimes refuse to do his work? Why might he talk out of place or not listen? Where are his academic skills now as compared to where they should be? Try not to be defensive. Listen. Think about their concerns. Raise your questions: “Is he gifted and bored? Are you not setting consequences for his behaviors?”

At the end of this meeting, try to plan next steps. Maybe they will try additional efforts and meet again in month. Maybe you will agree to studies to clarify why he is having difficulty. If testing is done, ask to meet again after the results are available to discuss the results and to plan any needed interventions.You and the school professionals share a concern about your son. Don’t react in frustration or misread their intentions. Do what we teach our kids. Sit down and talk.

How can I help an ADHD child with "sluggish cognitive tempo?"

After extensive testing by various places, my son has been diagnosed by a psychologist with ADHD-PI and sluggish cognitive tempo. He has just started taking band and playing the flute. Band is held at the end of the day when the other students have a study hall. As expected, he is having difficulty finishing tasks and tests in class.

The teachers want me to withdraw him from band to give him extra time to finish these things. He wants to continue band. He does not have an IEP yet. I am waiting for the written report from the psychologist to schedule an appointment with the counselor. The school tells me that with ADHD he does not qualify for additional resources.

Is sluggish cognitive tempo considered a learning disability? Will the diagnosis qualify him for additional resources, such as a resource teacher or just an IEP? Should I withdraw him from band and make him concentrate on academics or should I insist that the school make other accommodations to allow him to finish his unfinished assignments?

It appears that the school has done formal testing, called psycho-educational testing. These data should clarify why he has “sluggish cognitive tempo.” The most frequent causes are weaknesses in what is called processing speed or in what is called working memory. If these are the reasons, targeted special education tutoring should help.

You are correct — ADHD is not a disability under education law, thus, an IEP will not be done. ADHD can be considered under what is called a “504 Plan” and would include some assistance, such as the study hall.

Your options: You might let him stay in the band and provide a private special education tutor to work on his areas of difficulty. If formal psycho-educational testing has not been done, you might request that the school do these studies (or have them done privately).

My child went on ADHD medication and is now depressed. What now?

My daughter, who is now 7 years old, has been diagnosed with ADHD, Dyslexia, Motor Function delays and Executive Function disorder. This diagnosis came after about four months of testing and evaluation. The ADHD diagnosis came as a surprise, not just to us, but to her teachers and specialists as well. They just didn't see it.

The plan of action included continuation with what we are already doing and medication. We tried the medication and were told we would see an immediate change. The medication did nothing other than make her depressed. She is known for her sweet personality so the change was obvious. We tried other meds with the same result.

I am wondering if she has been misdiagnosed. She is now reading and writing through the help of a specialist as well as at home. She is also doing well with math. She is still struggling with her ability to stay focused and follow directions (ie. if I ask her to face me she will turn around with her back to me). At this point in her treatment, do you have any advice as to what I can do next? Thank you, in advance, for you time and consideration.

I would trust your observations and judgment. It is possible that her inattention is the result of her learning, motor, (and probably language) disabilities. If so, medication may not help; remedial tutoring, OT, Speech-Language will help. I suggest that you hold off on trying medication and give the interventions a chance to help. If the professionals working with her feel that her inattention is a major concern, you might want to have her reassessed by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist to explore why the medications did not work and to find if other interventions might help.

Is it necessary for a psychiatrist to contact the parents of an adult to make a diagnosis of learning disabilities?

I was seeing a psychologist, and he recommended that I have an Adult ADHD assessment with a psychiatrist. I met with a psychiatrist, and after an hour-long session of explaining my "symptoms," he thought I should continue with testing. He also asked to speak with my mom regarding my childhood behavior. While this is understandable, given the relationship with my mom, I said that I was not comfortable with that. He said that instead I could give him a few of my report cards, which I did. I was then given two tests, one that was for attention testing and one was more of a personality/behavioral profile.

At the end, the psychiatrist (who was very rude and condescending) told me that the report cards did not have enough comments written on them, so he could not make a diagnosis without talking to my mom. He never gave me the results of the tests, except to say "one test did show some attention problems." He did not discuss any options for help with me (behavior modification, counseling, etc.)

I am so frustrated! When the psychologist first mentioned ADD and I read up on it, I felt like something clicked, and I felt like there was an explanation for the rapid-fire of thoughts that goes through my brain sometimes! I thought I was going to get help, but now I just have a big bill, and I don't know where to turn.

I'm 28 years old - can a general physician or someone else help me, without consulting my mom? I understand the need to establish ADHD behaviors in childhood, but the relationship I have with my parents just does not make this an option. Do you have any recommendations of how I could still get help?

I cannot explain or justify the actions of the psychiatrist. To make the diagnosis of ADHD, it is necessary to show that the behaviors present as an adult (hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity) are chronic and pervasive. Chronic means that they existed before age seven. If the patient is comfortable with the suggestion, the psychiatrist might speak with a parent to confirm that the problems are chronic. Teacher comments from elementary school might help. However, if you did not want your mother to be contacted, some other way of confirming the chronic nature could have been tried. The psychiatrist might have had to rely on your memory. "I remember being like this in grade school or middle school."

Don't let the doctor-patient style of this psychiatrist prevent you from getting help. Yes, you can speak to your family doctor. Or, you could seek another psychiatrist. Often a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist (who also sees adults) is the best option since he or she would be very familiar with ADHD.

What does the diagnosis "globally delayed" mean?

A friend has a four-year-old who is very behind in his learning. She recently had him tested and was told he was globally delayed. Speech was at nine months, large motor skills at 18 months. Where can I find out more information on what is meant by globally delayed. Her support base of friends would like to better understand so that we can help any way we can.

Globally delayed is a general term used when the developmental delays found involve more than one major area. Examples might be cognitive, language, motor, psycho-social, and interactional.

When is the earliest that a child should be assessed for a learning disability?

I have a 4-and-a-half-year-old son. I have recently been through two assessments with a pediatrician. One says says he has learning difficulties and the other says he comes somewhere under the Austism Spectrum Disorder. I think there is a possibility of dyslexia. Could you advise me what the minimum age of a child is to assess for dyslexia?


The earliest clues of a possible learning disability might be noticed in preschool. Formal testing often is not done until first grade.

How can we get our procrastinating child to finish her projects?

Our 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed in 3rd grade with a learning disability. Her full scale IQ is 105, with her verbal being 25 points higher then her performance scores. She uses a ritalin patch for ADD. Our frustration with her is that she often procrastinates to the point where she gets totally overwhelmed. Her work ethic is not good at all. She hates school and honestly could be doing much better.

One example of this: she has a 23% in her photography elective class. The teacher said she takes amazing photos, but never finishes her projects! Any suggestions? We are having to nag her constantly, and she often tells us her work is all caught up when it isn't.

I hear that your daughter has a learning disability and that this disability was noted since third grade. Has she received special education services? These problems do not go away but change over time. Has she been tested recently? She might have problems now with reading and retaining what she has read or with organizing her thoughts when she has to write an answer or paper.

You also note the use of Ritalin. This medication is used for ADHD but will not impact on any learning disabilities. Before you continue to “blame the victim,” seeing her as lazy, unmotivated, or procrastinating, be sure that the school and you have not clarified if she continues to have learning disabilities. My bet is that current testing will show that she does and that these disabilities are what is frustrating her. Please, don’t continue to be frustrated. She is even more frustrated. Find out why she is struggling.

Is first grade too early to request an LD evaluation?

Is first grade too early to request an LD evaluation? My child is completely inept at reading and spelling. He writes letters backwards and struggles with some three letter words. He also has a speech issue that is currently being addressed.

Most school systems will not evaluate a child until the end of third grade. However, if you are concerned, and especially if there is a family history of LD, you should push for an assessment. If the school will not do it, have a psycho-educational evaluation completed privately.

Would testing for ADHD help a six-year old with behavioral and academic problems?

My 6-year-old son is in first grade and is having difficulty learning his spelling words and math concepts. He has speech delays, difficulty processing and trouble following directions. He was in first steps and an early childhood program. He went through a battery of tests at age 2-and-a-half and was seen by a developmental specialist but has no specific diagnosis. He has behavioral problems and angry outbursts but is usually corrected with time out.

At school, his teacher says he has trouble focusing and staying on task. He laughs or smiles when corrected and pounds on his desk. On the bus, he changes seats while the bus is moving and sits on the back of the seat. His sleep is a concern.

He gets up in the early morning around 4:00-5:00 am and has ever since he was 18 months old. He had a sleep study and had his tonsils and adenoids taken out, but it didn't help. He has his own internal clock and he is up several hours before school starts, making him exhausted before his 8:30 pm bedtime. I wonder if testing him for attention deficit disorder would be helpful.


Your descriptions of your son suggest that he has a language-based Learning Disability and possibly a receptive/expressive Language Disability. He also sounds as if he has ADHD.

You need to start with your family physician to explore for ADHD. You need to meet with the principal of your school to discuss the need for a comprehensive assessment to explore for the other diagnoses. If your school refuses to do this (and many do until the end of third grade), you may need to have the studies done privately and then take them back to the school. I share your concerns. You do need to act now.

What does a parent do when more than one of their children might have LD?

I have a three sons aged nine, six, and four. Our oldest was having difficulty keeping up with his class. Since kindergarten, he was always categorized as being a little behind. His teachers said it was due to our multi-language home environment.

His new fourth grade teacher is saying that he is reading at a second grade level and that there is a possibility he might be held back. Because of this, I started spending lot of time working on his reading, but as I was doing this, I noticed his younger brother, who is six years old, has better comprehension of the story and can respond faster and correctly to my questions. So many times he stared at me with a blank look because he didn't understand my questions and didn't know how to answer me.

I have a feeling my oldest son might have auditory processing disorder. He passed his school's hearing test. He is really a kind and gentle boy who can't seem to make friends even though he tries so hard. He can't seem to get the right words to express himself unlike his brothers. He wants to be accepted by his schoolmates and tries to join in their conversations, but it's either out of context or inappropiate, which is keeping him from making friends. This is really hurting his self esteem and is making him more aggressive towards his brothers.

How can I find out if I'm right or wrong about my feeling and how can I get the school's help? I'm learning that LD runs in the family; can my other boys have LD as well? I'm starting to notice that my six-year-old might have ADHD and my four-year-old has a speech problem. How can I get them evaluated if there is no sign of academic problems? I don't want to wait and have them be in the same position as their older brother. I am so grateful for your website because I know I'm not alone.


First, let's discuss your nine-year-old. He is in the fourth grade and reading at the second grade level. This means he is still struggling with decoding words and has not yet solidly moved to reading comprehension. You did not mention it, but I suspect he has difficulties writing his words correctly and with spelling. You also describe him as having difficulty processing what he hears and difficulty organizing his thoughts in order to respond verbally. These behaviors suggest a possible receptive/expressive language disability.

These are two excellent reasons for his school professionals to not focus on keeping him back but focus on why he is behind. Comprehensive psycho-educational and speech-language evaluations are essential. The results will help to clarify his problems and what needs to be done to help. (What Do You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has a Learning Disability?)

Now, for your other children. LD has a strong familial pattern. If LD runs in your family and we suspect that your nine-year-old has LD, it would be wise to watch the other children carefully and to seek help as soon as you become concerned. Take a look at LD Basics on LD Online to find out more.

Can a child read well and still be dyslexic?

Is it possible for a child to be able to read at or slightly above grade level, but still have dyslexia? My nine-year-old son does fine in reading (he did have two years of Title 1 reading assistance), but has difficulty spelling and has handwriting that is often illegible.

Dyslexia is a name used for a specific type of learning disability, a language-based reading disability. Don’t focus on the label. If he is nine and still struggling with spelling and handwriting, you should ask your school special education specialist or a private specialist to assess and find out why.

Does my son have non-verbal learning disabilities?

My son, who is now 15, has just been diagnosed with non-verbal learning disabilities (NVLD). He has been on an IEP since the age of three, due to speech apraxia, and later for LD, which affected his math, reading, and writing skills. He also has a diagnosis of ADHD and is on Concerta 54 mg a day.

I have read up on the NVLD and he does exhibit most of the signs of this disorder, as well as for his other diagnosis. My question is can he have learning disabilities that are both verbal and nonverbal and what can I do to help him? About two years ago, he made some very poor choices and as a result, charges were made against him. At this point, he is on probation, seeing a therapist and attending group sessions.

Due to his legal situation and his inability to understand the seriousness of his actions, my husband and I decided to homeschool him, basically out of fear that he may get into more trouble. We, however, are faced to with the dilemma of him not having any friends and don't know how to solve this situation either since he has never done well with making friends. I would appreciate any input or help you could give us. Our greatest fear is that he will never be able to fit into mainstream society and will end up getting into more and more trouble.

A non-verbal learning disability can be part of a larger picture of learning disabilities or can be part of other psychiatric disorders. Given the difficulties he has had, it would be important for you to have both an educational consultant who could clarify if there are remaining learning disabilities and a mental health professional who understands such problems. If your school professionals cannot help with the learning/learning disabilities aspects of your question, you could seek a private consultant. Since he is on medication, the best mental health professional would be a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

What is visual perception disorder?

Please tell me...what is visual perception disorder? How is it corrected? My granddaughter is eight years old and tries so hard to read and do her school work, struggles with reading and spelling. What can we do? Is there help with eye exercises? Is this recommended, and is it done by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist?

Thank you for any help.

A visual perception disorder might impact on several aspects of processing visual information received by the brain. These problems might include recognizing specific letters/numbers/shapes; the ability to distinguish left and right images of visual stimuli; the ability to analyze these visual stimuli and interpret there meaning. Intervention would depend on where the problems are. To clarify if such problems exist, it is best to do a formal psycho-educational evaluation. Your school might do this or you might need to have it done privately.

Visual perception problems are related to how the brain processes visual stimuli and not to the visual processes associated with the eye and vision. If your daughter has problems with vision (nearsighted, farsighted, astigmatism, etc.) this should be checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. If not a problem or if the problem is corrected by glasses, the focus should be on the role of the brain.

Should you wait until age seven to assess a child for ADD, LD, or other learning problems?

I am concerned that my bright five-year-old daughter may be displaying signs of ADD. Since starting school, she has displayed a high level of achievement in both reading and math. She has been well-supported at home. However, her teacher has commented that although she is very bright, she often day dreams and requires extra time to complete classroom tasks.

She is very quiet and appears anxious when answering questions, speaking in front of the class or meeting new people. We have also noted in the home environment that requests frequently have to be repeated up to four times before she answers. Having a general conversation is difficult because of her fidgeting, slow processing or her being cognitively engaged elsewhere. During homework tasks, she requires ongoing prompting in order to focus.

She becomes very frustrated when she makes mistakes and, out of frustration, becomes defiant. She is popular with her school friends and although shy, manages to make friends in new environments. Also, I am not sure whether this is relevant, but her motor function appears delayed and she has struggled in her attempts to ride a scooter or bike. She is also prone to accidents and falling when running.

I am unsure whether it is too early to seek an assessment or even raise the issue with the school. The general advice from the literature that I have read is that assessment should not be sought until the child is seven due to underdeveloped cerebellum. What is your general opinion on this?

Don’t be so quick to rush to ADHD as the cause. Your descriptions suggest more the possibility that she might have a language disability (difficulty quickly processing what she hears and difficulty organizing her thoughts to respond). Or, she might have a motor disability (Sensory Integration Disorder), resulting in her gross and fine motor difficulties. Although not yet in first grade, she shows early signs of a potential learning disability. The behaviors I least hear you describe would be those associated with ADHD.

I encourage you to request that her school professionals assess her. Waiting until age seven and the end of first grade is to wait until she fails. Act now so that the help she needs is in place during first grade. These studies would include a speech-language evaluation, an occupational therapy evaluation, and an educational assessment (called a psycho-educational evaluation). These test results will clarify her needs and the services she will need. If your school system refuses to test her until she is seven, try to get the studies done privately.

How is a psychoeducational evaluation different from a nueropsychological evaluation?

I have an 8-year-old son who is struggling with reading and writing, but does fine with mathematics. I've taken him to a developmental optometrist, who found some problems with tracking and binocularity. He's also been tested by an audiologist, who found that he has problems hearing in background noise, but felt that due to his age, he might still be developing this skill.

I feel like I need to take him to someone who can give me an overall idea of what's happening. I'm unsure whether to take him for a neuropsychological exam to someone who does psychoeducational exams. Can you explain the difference between these two and tell me which you think would be better for him now?

It is important to identify why he has a reading and writing problem. Formal testing should provide this information.

Psychoeducational evaluations focus on identifying if the individual has cognitive/academic problems. If present, what are they, were are the strengths, and where are the weaknesses. The results help to develop an intervention strategy. A neuropsychological evaluation assesses does not focus on learning but on the function of most areas of brain function. The testing is more elaborate (and probably more expensive). The results will help to clarify if there is a learning disability and, if so, what to do about it.

Note from LD OnLine: To find out more about evaluation, please visit What Do You Do If You Suspect That Your Child Has a Learning Disability?.

Who should test a child for learning disabilities—the school or the doctor?

My nine-year-old daughter is in the third grade. Her work goes from good to okay to poor throughout the school year. She is getting ready to get out of school in less than two weeks. Since first grade, I have asked her teachers, school counselors, and her pediatrician to evaluation her for learning disabilities. Her biological father has ADHD and dyslexia.

I cannot get anyone to take the responsibility to test her. The school says it’s her doctor’s area, but her doctor says it is the school’s. Who really is the one who should be testing her? Her teacher says she spaces out in classes and she inverts digital 2’s and 5’s, the word “a” and “the,” and “b’s” and “d’s.” She also says her mind tells her to stand when she’s repeatedly told to sit, especially at her desk in school and at the table when eating anywhere.

Please help me help her. Her teacher even hinted she’d be better off staying back another year. I don’t know how she would handle that.

Thank you.

Wow!! Talk about passing the buck. Your descriptions suggest that she might have a learning disability and/or ADHD. One does not have to guess which. Given her difficulties with letter/number reversals and her not being where she should be academically at the end of third grade, the possibility of a learning disability is real. This possibility is even greater given that her biological father has a form of LD called dyslexia.

The only way to clarify is to have her take a battery of tests called a psycho-educational evaluation. Insist that her school professionals do such testing. See Sample Letter-Requesting an Initial Evaluation for Special Education Services. If she has LD, she will need special education services plus appropriate accommodations. The question of repeating third can only be answered after these data are available.

Should you have a history, going back to preschool of her being fidgety/hyperactive, inattentive, and/or impulsive, her family doctor should evaluate for ADHD. If she has this disorder, medication might help. Remember, it is not on or the other. Many children have both and both need to be addressed.

Are memory difficulties considered learning disabilities?

Is the inability to memorize a learning disability? As a child, I was unable to memorize the arithmetic tables and to this day cannot add or subtract, multiply or divide accurately. As a teenager and an adult this inability to memorize has made it impossible to learn a second language because I'm unable to memorize and retain vocabulary.

Now at age 55, I'm under pressure at my job to learn a second language and even though I try to explain this problem, no one will believe that it is a learning disability. They keep pointing out that I have learned one language so I should be able to learn two. Of course, they all speak two or three fluently. I need some data to back me up. Can you help?

By the way, my IQ is 140 and I have an Ed.D. from Teachers College-Columbia University. I can learn, I just can't memorize.

Thank you,


There are many types of memory - working memory, short term memory, long term memory. And each type of memory is different for visual and for auditory processing. It is possible that you have a specific type of memory deficit that would make specific tasks, such as learning a new language difficult. I cannot be more specific. If it is important to you, you might request formal testing to clarify if you have a deficit in memory and, if so, in what areas.

What are some symptoms of pervasive developmental disorder?

A student shows signs of inattentiveness. Often, he does not do work without constant one-on-one redirection. Still, minimal work is done. He is often playing with hands in an imaginary way, assuming they are action figures. He shows concern for only himself. He has no empathy for others, even when he uses inappropriate physical or verbal aggression. The child is 8 years old.

His parents are seeing him as gifted, but no classroom observation or information has been used in the diagnosis. Critical thinking activities and a diverse learning environment, as well as curriculum, are given. The child does not complete the basic work even when extensions are given to expand on the subject.

What are the steps to getting a child tested, evaluated as gifted, or having a disability? Can a child be gifted (only) and still not be able to interact with classmates and stay on task in order to get the introduction to a lesson. Thank you for your help.

Based on the descriptions you provide, your student might have what is called a Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Discuss this concept with your school consultants and explore how to get the student’s parents involved in a full evaluation. If my clinical impression is correct, the student will need special education services.

What do you do when the school won’t test your child for learning disabilities?

Dr. Silver,

I am a parent of a 15-year-old son who has not been diagnosed. The school district he is in tells me that they do not have a way to assess him. Therefore, his needs are not being met. They keep sending me to all kinds of doctors to be diagnosed (i.e. medical, eye, psychologist) and they are all sending me back to the school district for testing.

What can I do? It is very frustrating to know that if my child is diagnosed, there are people and foundations that would fit him perfectly. His school's learning disability teacher does not know the techniques that are suggested in the articles at this site. Please help me.

I do not understand what your school professionals mean when they say they do not have a way to assess him. (Is it possible that you have not provided me with other important information?) Your public school system cannot send you to someone else to do studies.

Step one (if not already done), seek a parent consultant/advocate who can advise you on your rights. Step two, with this advocate, present a formal request to the principal of his public school, requesting an evaluation. Step three, if refused, ask for the procedure for filing an appeal and file one. Good luck.

Can a person who writes but can’t read be dyslexic?

After learning about dyslexia in my AP psychology class, I've been wondering whether I had it. It would explain my constant and perpetuating difficulty reading, but I seem to be an ok writer and have always taken honors and AP English classes. Of course, I was never able to read any of the required novels. Instead, I relied on classroom discussions and summaries to help me understand the books. Would it be possible for me to be dyslexic if I can write but not read? I seem to have some of the symptoms but not all.

I’m sorry it took high school and reading about dyslexia for anyone (you) to question why you have so much difficulty reading. Speak to your parents about requesting formal testing to clarify why you have this problem. Only by understanding the reason(s) will you be able to know what type of help will be most useful.

If a parent wants a new objective evaluation performed by a professional, should they share former evaluation results?

Dr. Silver,

My daughter was tested for learning disabilities through the school in second grade. She was diagnosed with expressive language disorder and with short-term auditory and visual processing disorder. She's in sixth grade now and I want her to be retested by outside of the school to see what issues she's dealing with now.

I don't want the school to know that I'm doing it and want to see if the new testing is in line with the old results. I contacted a licensed psychologist who wants to review the school's diagnosis before he tests her. I'm afraid it might sway him and I want a completely new, fresh and unbiased diagnosis. Must he see the old evaluation or can I keep it from him until after the testing? What's the right thing for me to do?

Thank you,

I support your wish to have updated studies for your daughter done privately. However, it is important that the psychologist doing the updated testing have a previous baseline in order to assess for progress or for lack of progress. Showing previous testing will not bias the examiner. The testing is based on standard scores and the results will be accurate readings for your daughter.

How can I help my homeschooled daughter who has trouble with comprehension?

My daughter is in sixth grade. She had attended public school since kindergarten and had begun to have falling grades in fourth and fifth grades. We began homeschooling her this year and were shocked at her lack of comprehension skills. She forgets things as soon as she reads them. Even when I try to read assignments to her in an exciting way, she does not retain the information. Last week we did a whole unit on the Scientific Method in Science. This week the term was reintroduced and she acted as if she had never heard the term. I hate getting frustrated when I know this is not something she is doing intentionally. Is she ADD? She never acts hyperactive. She is very laid back and can concentrate on and remember TV shows and comic book stories. If she is ADD, I have no intention of medicating her. Is there a natural medicine or change in food or curriculum that can help her?

Thank you,

Yes, she can be helped. She needs a diagnosis. I bet that if your daughter had continuous headaches or stomachaches or any other physical problem you would have rushed to her doctor and perhaps seen as many specialists as you needed in order to help her. Why do you see disorders of the brain as different?

You describe what might be learning disabilities and you describe possible ADHD. Discuss each with your pediatrician. There are formal test to clarify if she has a learning disability. These studies can be done by your school professionals or by private professionals. Your family doctor should be able to assess for ADHD; and, if she has this disorder, treat it. Treatment would be based on what she has. Home schooling might give you a false sense of security because of the lack of the same expectations needed in school.

Please, have the right professionals make the right diagnoses. Then, design your interventions/treatments on the confirmed diagnoses. Disorders of the brain are just as debilitating as those of other body systems.

Can a really busy person get diagnosed without spending much time at it?

Is there a way I could be diagnosed without having to go to my general practitioner? During the week, I have college and have to work so I never have spare time to go to the doctors. But I want an official diagnosis that I have ADD or ADHD. It would help me get a little extra help in college

There is no easy or quick way to diagnose or treat ADHD. You need to be seen by a physician to establish the diagnosis and to receive treatment. Maybe you could find someone at your college's Health Services so that you do not have to travel. Again, if you have a problem that is impacting on your success, you must find the time to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.

How can I get evaluated when I have social anxiety disorder and LD or ADD?

I think I may have Social Anxiety Disorder and ADD or a learning disability and I think the effects of my childhood have played a role in it. I think I have had it for most of my life but I can't deal with it anymore. I feel like I am going to have a nervous breakdown. I'm always irritable, I can't communicate well with people (especially around a group of people, I get very nervous). I feel disconnected and frustrated.

It is affecting my job. My boss tells me that I don't focus and I make stupid mistakes all the time. I'm afraid I will get fired. I don't know where to go. What places in New York City specialize in both disorders? I want to get a full evaluation. I get very overwhelmed trying to find the right resources.


Anxiety Disorders and ADHD are best diagnosed by a psychiatrist. Learning Disabilities are best diagnosed by a psychologist who does psycho-educational testing. I would start with a psychiatrist and go from there. Sorry, I cannot give you a name in NYC. Perhaps your family physician can recommend someone.

Should a practitioner diagnose a learning disability if the client also has a mood disorder?

I am working with a client that has a long history of emotional and behavioral difficulties. To make a long story short, he has significant and mood disturbances and does meet the discrepancy criteria for an LD. Is it appropriate to give an LD diagnosis even in the presence of a severe mood disorder? His lack of achievement in my opinion is better explained by the mood disorder rather than an LD. I know that most clinicians would give the LD diagnosis, but I don't feel like it is ethical when considering the underlying process.

Thanks for your advice!

Dr. Smith

There is a continuum of neurologically-based disorders that are frequently found together. This continuum includes learning disabilities, ADHD, emotional regulatory disorders (anxiety disorder, depression, anger-control problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder), Bipolar Disorder, and tic disorders.

Thus, the question is not whether your client has a learning disability or a mood disturbance. He might have both and assessing for all possibilities is essential. Should he have learning disabilities, he will need special education services along with accommodations. If he has one or more of the emotional regulatory disorders or Bipolar Disorder, he will also need treatment for these diagnoses.

What should a parent do when a child does their homework and then doesn't turn it in?

My son is mildly dyslexic, 16 years old, and a sophomore in high school. Somehow homework and class work disappear between generation and turning it in. It has gotten worse. My son is taking AP Government and has a wonderful teacher. But how do we overcome this "missing link" where homework doesn't get turned it and occasionally class work doesn't get turned in.


Many students with learning disabilities (a term used by school system rather than dyslexia) have problems with organization. They misplace or lose their papers, reports, homework; they leave things at home that are needed in school and in school things that are needed at home. Their backpack may be chaotic. This disorganization might include losing personal objects or keeping bedroom presentable. It sounds as if your son has such problems. He will need a special education tutor who can help him develop organizational skills much as special tutors helped him with reading and writing in the past. Getting upset with him won't work. Get him the help he needs.

What can a parent do when the diagnosis just doesn't seem right?

My daughter's teacher recommended that we get Sophia tested for learning disabilities. We went to a neurologist that specializes in child development who did a full evaluation. She also referred us to an audiologist for central auditory processing testing. Our daughter scored significantly for a child with auditory processing disorder in tolerance fading memory, decoding, auditory closure & binaural separation. However she scored normal for auditory attention.

Thank you,

Although in this part of the test she scored normal, the neurologist thinks she should be put on Focalin. I thought this is for ADD. Why would I want to put her on a medication for auditory processing difficulties? The neurologist said she still thinks my daughter has attention deficit disorder even though she scored well on this part of the exam.

I don't really understand, and I'm terrified of putting my daughter on medication - she is only 6.


You are correct to be confused. First, the testing done is not comprehensive enough to clarify if your daughter has a learning disability or not. Second, the testing done would not establish a diagnosis of ADD. You may need to seek an educational diagnostic specialist to help plan for further testing to clarify why she is having difficulty. Ask the neurologist to clarify how the diagnosis of ADD was made. Specifically, does Sophia have a chronic and pervasive history of hyperactivity, and/or inattention-distractibility, and/or impulsivity?

If she is in a public school system, the teacher was incorrect in asking you to do testing. This teacher should have recommended that the evaluation team at her school do the evaluation.

What can an adult do if they think they have Asperger's Syndrome?

When I was in elementary school, I was diagnosed with a Visual Spatial Non Verbal Learning disorder and ADHD. I am now 25, and I have recently read a book about Asperger's Syndrome. This disorder would make a lot of sense. For one, I give people very off putting eye contact, which has really caused major employment issues. Would it be worth getting a professional diagnosis? Is there anything a professional can do to help?


You should see a mental health professional who is familiar with adult Asperger's Disorder. He or she should be able to clarify if you have this disorder and suggest ways to help you. You can find more information on the Online Asperger Syndrome Information & Support website.

How can I help my learning disabled son who is having trouble finding a job and getting into college?

My son is 19, and has been diagnosed as ADHD/LD when he was in Kindergarten. Over the years he has taken Ritalin, Adderall, and many others, nothing really helped. His neurologist said that the learning disabilities were outweighing his ADHD and that’s why the medication hasn't helped. His math disability is the worst, he never could retain much of the basic math facts they learn in grade school.

I feel that he was pushed through school, just to get him out, not learning much along the way. Now that he is one year out of school, he can't go to college because he can't pass the entrance tests, and cannot get a job as every job requires taking some kind of test, experience, certification, or schooling.

He is getting very depressed because he can't find a job. I feel lost because I have tried everything to help him find one and to help him cope with all the other things that go along with ADHD. Should he see another doctor?


Your story is sad to hear. It would be important at this time to have your son evaluated. He needs a psycho-educational evaluation. These studies will clarify if he has learning disabilities and, if so, what help he needs. The results will also be part of reassessing if he still has ADHD and if it should be treated.

All is not over. Most community colleges will accept students like your son. The initial courses might be remedial, getting him ready to take college-level courses. There are also vocational training programs designed to help students like your son. Good luck.

How can I work with the professionals who help my son to improve his behavior difficulties?

My 4-year-old son has some language processing difficulties. I need advice on how to deal with his tantrums of hitting, throwing stuff, peeing on his pants, etc. when he is in his very frequent temperamental behavior. He does not behave like this in school though. This is affecting my other normal six-year-old son's life terribly. Not to mention mine, as well. Please help. Time out or ignoring his tantrums does not help. His tantrums most of the time is due to him not being able to interpret as to what we are asking him to do or him not having it his way.


Who identified that he has a language processing problem? I hope it was by a speech-language therapist or a special education team. Do these language processing problems interfere with his ability to process what he hears and what he tries to speak? Do they interfere with early preschool learning like letter and number recognition?

I would suspect that his behavior at home is the result of his frustrations with handling life. If he does not always know what he hears or has difficulty finding the words to express himself, he will be angry and upset. If he cannot do play activities or peer interactions at his age level, he will be frustrated.

Start by sitting down with the professionals who diagnosed him as having a language processing difficulty. Ask this person(s) to help you answer your question about his behavior. Have them explain the frustration and teach you how to help you son be less frustrated.

Note from LD OnLine: For more information on Language Processing Difficulties, visit LD OnLine's Speech and Language section.

When is homeschooling appropriate for a child with many special learning needs?

My six-year-old daughter is very bright. I am home schooling her. Last year she went to a private school for Kindergarten. She coasted through with all A's. I felt she could have done more, but I didn't push because after all, it's only kindergarten. When she asked for more work after school, I gave her work from a first grade workbook. By letting her move at her own pace, she is finishing 2-4 days of school work in one day.

The only thing she will not do for me is read. She says it is boring. I gave her an easier book. She struggled and couldn't read it. I gave her a simple chapter book with a picture on each page and she read two pages with barely any help. It was marked as a level 4 book. After two pages, she was done. I tried to get her to read more of it the next day and she said she couldn't.

In other areas, she is a well behaved little girl. She does not like to be corrected, and will frequently roll her eyes when she is. She has difficulties being distracted, and can rarely fulfill a two-part command. (In fact, my mildly autistic son can perform a two-part command better than she can!) If you tell her that something is behind her, she is likely to turn around in a full circle, look up at the ceiling and say she can't find it. I was wondering if she could have ADD. And I was also wondering if it is important to get a diagnosis for her, even though I do not intend to medicate.

I am hoping to find solutions that can help her individual problems--including finding a curriculum that best suits her needs. But am I doing the right thing by her?


Your desire to help your daughter progress at her own rate of growth rather than the curriculum offered by a general education program is fine. However, I hear several other themes that concern me.

First, she appears to be struggling with reading. Reading is not a skill a student learns on their own. It needs to be taught by someone who knows how to teach reading. Is she behind because of your teaching or because she might have a potential problem with reading or because of some other factor. You need to clarify this question before you can decide how best to help her with her reading.

Second, you question if she might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As possible evidence you note that she can be distracted and she "rarely fulfills a two-part command." May I urge you to stop trying to be everything to her. If you do not have a degree in elementary school education; if you do not have a degree in speech-language therapy; if you do not have a professional degree in psychology or medicine, I urge you to see the advise of these individuals. Does she have a reading disability? Find out. Does she have a language disability? Find out. Does she have ADHD? Find out.

For your daughter's sake, love her, help her. But agree that you may not be able to answer all of the questions you ask.

What happens if medication does not seem to be working well?

My son was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities at the end of third grade. He is now in ninth grade and gets very frustrated to the fact that he can't concentrate and do well in school. I feel frustrated myself because I don't know how to help him get out of his frustration.

He used to take Concerta until last year. He now refuses to take the medicine because it makes him feel a different person and he gets angry and aggressive when he takes it. I stopped giving it to him.

Please provide me with some feedback as to how I can help him succeed.


Let me focus first on the ADHD. Maybe he can't concentrate in school because his ADHD is no longer being treated. You should know that there are two consequences of being on too high a dose of Ritalin (Concerta). First, the individual may be more emotionally fragile - more angry or upset. Second, the individual may feel spacey - like someone flattened his personality. Perhaps if he saw someone who knew how to adjust the dose and monitor the medication, he would not resist. Discuss this with your physician.

Second, he has learning disabilities. And, now he is in high school. Does he have the compensatory strategies to handle high school work? Does he have the necessary accommodations in class? Could his frustration also be because he is no longer receiving adequate services?

When should my daughter be tested again for LD?

Our 13-year-old daughter tests well for reading (consistently the 90+ percentile for her grade level), writes beautifully, and draws/paints exceptionally well. She also has a lovely singing voice and had some success for three years as a Suzuki piano student. (The emphasis with this method is on hearing, rather than reading the music.)

On the other hand, math has been consistently difficult and despite repeated lessons, she has great difficulty interpreting--or even remembering the names of certain musical symbols. (I have assumed that the math and music problems are related.)

In addition, she is very disorganized, and though she will sometimes remember to write assignments in a planner, does not have the presence of mind to check it later. As a result, books stay in the locker or wherever she left them.

She also has serious problems memorizing lines of poetry, songs, or scripts and though she would like to participate in drama clubs, she does not trust that she will find the words at the right moment.

My sense is that this isn't simply a problem of confidence. He is a bright kid but is having serious problems in school. She was tested in second grade when the math problems began to surface. Results were 'inconclusive.' Should she be tested again, and what for?

Thank you,

The only way to clarify where your daughter's areas of learning strengths and learning weaknesses are is through formal testing. These studies are called psycho-educational evaluations.

If such studies were done at age seven, they would not be valid at age 13. She will need to be retested. These studies will help to clarify her areas of learning abilities and, if present, her areas of learning disabilities.