Types of Tests Used to Diagnose Learning Disabilities

Young girl taking a test
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Your child is doing poorly in school, and you want to know why. He's not lazy — in fact, he works hard — but he just can't seem to understand the concepts or score well on tests. If this describes your situation, there's a good chance that your child has a learning disability, and it makes sense to have your child evaluated.

Who Conducts Tests

When evaluations are conducted, the evaluators are usually experts in several fields including education, speech and language, audiology, and psychology. By conducting a series of tests, evaluations, and interviews, they are working to understand what stands between your child and academic success. Findings from these evaluations may reveal any of a number of issues, ranging from hearing loss or low vision to difficulties with focus, use of language, or reading. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques for managing almost any learning-related disability — but until the issue has been diagnosed, there's not a much anyone can do.

What Tests Are Used?

Diagnosing a learning disability in public schools requires several types of tests. Common tests used to diagnose a learning disability include intelligence tests, achievement tests, visual-motor integration, and language testing.

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that a diagnosis of a learning disability is not made on the basis of a single test.

This list includes some of the more common tests used in the diagnosis of a learning disability. Other tests not listed here may also be used depending on the evaluator's preferences and the child's needs.

Intelligence Tests

Intelligence tests (often called IQ tests) most commonly used to diagnose a learning disability include the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WIPPSI), Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS).

Other common intelligence, or cognitive, tests include the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test, Differential Abilities Scales (DAS), the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, and the Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (CTONI). Findings from these tests can help pinpoint areas of strength and weakness; armed with this kind of information, schools can often suggest educational options or offer special support where it's needed.

Achievement Tests

Common achievement tests used to diagnose a learning disability include the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJ), the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), and the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA). These tests focus on reading, writing, and math. If your child has fallen behind in a particular academic area, schools can offer remedial support, tutoring, and other tools to help your child catch up.

Visual Motor Integration Tests

Visual motor integration tests are supplementary tests that many evaluators use to support a learning disability evaluation. Common visual motor integration tests include the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test and the Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration. Findings from these tests may help to determine if your child's brain is properly connecting visual cues to motor coordination. In other words, is she able to draw what she sees? If she is having a difficult time integrating visual and motor skills, it will be very tough for her to learn to write or draw properly without special support.

Language Tests

Commonly used language tests used in the diagnosis of learning disabilities include the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF), Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation, the Test of Language Development. These tests explore your child's ability to understand spoken and written language and to respond verbally to questions or cues.

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Article Sources

  1. Eligibility: Determining Whether a Child is Eligible for Special Education Services. Learning Disabilities Association of America

  2. Evaluating Children to Determine Eligibility for Special Education Services and Reevaluation Requirements. Learning Disabilities Association of America

  3. Learning disabilities. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association