Screening Adults for Learning Disabilities

adult learning disability

Screening Adults for Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are, of course, not limited to children navigating the classroom. Many adults have them as well, and it’s important to screen for intellectual disabilities, as they affect older individuals differently in work, community living, and everyday life.

Let’s talk about what goes into being screened for a learning disability as an adult, and what the next steps are after that to get you to a diagnosis.

What Goes Into Being Screened for a Learning Disability?

What does being screened for a learning disability as an adult mean? What goes into it?

Screening is the very first step in the process of having all of the relevant information about someone with a potential learning disability. The process does not determine whether or not you definitely have a learning disability, however. There are additional steps involved as well.

The screening may involve informal interviews, general observations, reviews of work, medical, and school histories, and/or the use of a written tool.

Informal Interviews

Informal interviews essentially consist of an advocate asking casual questions and having a discussion about past challenges and successes. Some typical questions may include:

  • What do you enjoy most, and why do you enjoy it?
  • Did you receive any special help while in school?
  • Have you ever had difficulty keeping or obtaining a job?
  • Do you have any problems with math, reading, or writing skills?


Observation sounds fairly vague, and it does encompass quite a bit. Someone observing a person with a potential learning disability has a lot they can look out for, including but not limited to:

  • Signs of poor hearing or vision
  • Signs of problems with expressive language or reading
  • Signs of social behaviors that may interfere with daily life, learning, and/or working
  • Underachievement in some areas and at least average ability in others

Potential Screening Tools

There are a variety of screening tools available for advocates to use. Some of them are available online, others may require further training before being used. Costs vary as well – some screening tools are free, others have fees associated with them.

Different age groups require different tools, so it’s vitally important to choose the correct option.

The Importance of Informed Consent and Confidentiality

Before an advocate starts to question someone with a potential learning disability, they should understand the purpose of this screening, how the results are going to be used, who is conducting it, and how their confidentiality will be kept.

An advocate conducting an individual screening should also have a signed consent form with this information:

  • The actual purpose of the screening
  • How the screening results will be used
  • Who will see the screening results
  • Where and how long the forms will be stored
  • The name of the instruments used in the screening
  • The time frame for screening
  • The advocate’s signature
  • The adult’s signature and the date it was signed

Common Questions Asked When Screening Adults for Learning Disabilities

The National Center for Workforce and Disability has a checklist that helps employers screen for learning disabilities in their employees. Here are some common questions that may be asked:

  • Do you confuse similar numbers or letters, confuse their order, or reverse them?
  • Do you omit or reverse letters, phrases, or words when writing?
  • Do you have difficulty writing down ideas on paper?
  • Do you have a hard time explaining things in writing, but can do so orally?
  • Do you have problems reading addresses or dialing phone numbers?
  • Do you spell the same word differently in one document?
  • Do you frequently miscopy or misread?
  • Do you have consistent problems with writing mechanics, organizing written work, and sentence structure?
  • Do you have difficulty reading and/or following small print and/or following columns?

The above list is not all-encompassing, there are other potential questions to be asked, but this lets you know what to expect during a learning disability screening. These are also not just for employers, but can be asked by any advocate for the person with a potential intellectual disability, as we discussed earlier.

The Difference Between LD Screening and an LD Diagnosis

An actual learning disability diagnosis differs from a screening because it’s a formal assessment that will actually determine the presence of an intellectual disability. The screening is more informal, and shows whether or not there is a probability that you may have an undiagnosed learning disability.

While an informal screening can be completed by an advocate for someone with a potential intellectual disability, a formal diagnosis has to be done by a qualified professional who can evaluate whether or not an actual learning disability is present.

Further Resources for Screening Adults for Learning Disabilities

Interested in learning more about screening adults for learning disabilities?

Here is a list of characteristics of adults with learning disabilities to get you started. Also, at At Home Your Way, we have many resources that can assist you with this subject, both as an advocate and as an adult with a potential learning disability.

Living as an adult with a learning disability can change community living, work, and daily life for the individual, and having the difference diagnosed is a great way to improve productivity, learning, and other aspects of existence.

Check out our searchable resource list to start learning more today

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