Testing For Learning Disabilities & Disorders in Children

Dr. Peter Meiland, Clinical Psychologist NYC

Learning Disability Testing In Adults NYC

Testing For Learning Disabilities in Children

If you suspect your child of dealing with a learning disability, it is important to seek help from a certified and trusted professional. Your child will need to be evaluated by a psychologist in order to truly determine if they are struggling with learning disabilities or disorders. Dr. Peter Meiland can help.

It can be difficult to realize that your child may be suffering from a learning disability. You find yourself worrying about their future and you do not want to continue to watch your child struggle and suffer. The good news is that children with learning disabilities are just as smart as their counterparts, they simply have a different way of processing and absorbing information. They are not lazy, they are not stupid and they can be helped with proper diagnosis and treatment.

Children with learning disabilities are very aware that school is more difficult for them than their peers. They often internalize their academic struggles by mistakenly thinking they are either “stupid” or “not trying”. It is heartbreaking to talk with a child with a learning disability who has already acquired this label.

If you suspect that you child has learning disabilities, do not hesitate to get them help. The sooner you do, the sooner they can be diagnosed and a treatment plan can be developed to help them reach their potential. Learning disabilities can manifest in different ways in each child and it is not always easy to identify the disability they are struggling with. Which is why it is important to seek help.

Children benefit from learning disability testing because it “de-mystifies” them and their struggles. They learn the real reasons behind their difficulties. Testing leads to strategies to “work around” a learning disability, and shows how a child has already compensated for their learning disability, often by becoming unusually capable in other areas.

How are children tested and diagnosed with learning disorders?

Typically, testing for learning disabilities in children is done through a clinical review of their development, medical, educational and family history as well as additional evaluations and testing. A knowledgeable clinical psychologist, with a proven track record in diagnosing and testing for learning disabilities in adults is key in providing a trustworthy diagnosis and treatment plan.

Testing for learning disabilities in children should be performed by a licensed psychologist, specifically one with focused training on conducting learning disabilities testing.

What are some of the learning disability characteristics in children?

Children with learning disabilities may struggle with any of the following, often they may suffer from several different symptoms:

  • problem solving skills
  • difficulty with reading, writing and/or math
  • short attention span
  • trouble retaining information
  • trouble following directions
  • difficulty differentiating between letters, numbers or sounds
  • hand-eye coordination
  • disorganization

In addition, there are many other signs that can indicate a learning disability in an children and they can vary as well.

  • erratic performance day to day
  • inappropriate reactions to interactions or challenges
  • easily distracted, restless and impulsive tendencies
  • difficulty expressing themselves, often saying something but meaning something else
  • trouble focusing
  • delayed speech development
  • difficulty with discipline

Learning Disability Testing & Diagnosis FAQs

What are learning disabilities?

Testing Children For Learning DisabilitiesLearning disabilities, or learning disorders, are really umbrella terms for a wide variety of learning problems. Learning disabilities are neurological and can manifest in numerous ways.

Specifically, someone who has a learning disability finds it challenging to acquire knowledge and skills that are on par with their age group.

It is important to note that those with learning disabilities are no less “smart” than their peers, they may have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and/or organizing information when they are left to themselves to figure things out or when they are taught using standard methods.

They simply see and process things differently than those without learning disabilities.

As mentioned above, learning disabilities are neurological. Although they cannot be cured or fixed, with the right diagnosis and testing, those with learning disabilities can find help. In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that the brain can change and, with the right learning conditions and support, the brain can reorganize itself by forming new neural connections which can help with skills like reading and writing which the old connections made difficult.  With support and intervention, children and adults with learning disabilities can succeed in school and live successful lives.

What are the common types of learning disabilities in children?

Common Types of Learning Disabilities

Dyslexia – Difficulty reading

  • Problems reading, writing, spelling, speaking

Dyscalculia – Difficulty with math

  • Problems doing math problems, understanding time, using money

Dysgraphia – Difficulty with writing

  • Problems with handwriting, spelling, organizing ideas

Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disorder) – Difficulty with fine motor skills

  • Problems with hand-eye coordination, balance, manual dexterity

Dysphasia/Aphasia – Difficulty with language

  • Problems understanding spoken language, poor reading comprehension

Auditory Processing Disorder – Difficulty hearing differences between sounds

  • Problems with reading, comprehension, language

Visual Processing Disorder – Difficulty interpreting visual information

  • Problems with reading, math, maps, charts, symbols, pictures


What are signs my child has a learning disability?

Child Learning Disability Diagnosis NYCLearning disabilities can manifest themselves differently child to child. Some may struggle with reading and spelling while others may read voraciously but have difficulty with math. Some may have difficulty processing and understand what people say to them as well as have difficulty communicating out loud. In addition, children may act out in numerous ways because they are struggling.

Because of the wide variations in learning disabilities, the symptoms and additional behavioral issues, it can be challenging to know specifically what to look for when you are trying to determine if your child has a learning disability or disorder. There are some warning signs that can be more common than others at different stages and ages.

The good news is that once you have your child tested for learning disabilities, there is help and with the right support and training, your child can learn how to improve their learning skills.

Below is a list of common signs and symptoms of learning disabilities. If you think your child may be dealing with a learning disability, contact Dr. Peter Meiland to learn more about learning disability testing.

Preschool Learning Disability Signs

  • Problems pronouncing words
  • Trouble finding the right word
  • Difficulty rhyming
  • Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, days of the week
  • Difficulty following directions or learning routines
  • Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors, or coloring within the lines
  • Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, learning to tie shoes

Ages 5-9 Learning Disability Signs

  • Trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds
  • Unable to blend sounds to make words
  • Confuses basic words when reading
  • Slow to learn new skills
  • Consistently misspells words and makes frequent reading errors
  • Trouble learning basic math concepts
  • Difficulty telling time and remembering sequences

Ages 10-13 Learning Disability Signs

  • Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills
  • Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems
  • Dislikes reading and writing; avoids reading aloud
  • Poor handwriting
  • Poor organizational skills (bedroom, homework, desk is messy and disorganized)
  • Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud
  • Spells the same word differently in a single document


What is learning disability testing and why does a child need to be tested?

Children are usually tested because they are having problems in school. Testing can pinpoint the areas of difficulty children are having. Students are very different from each other in how they process information. When a “processing deficit” or weakness collides with the skills necessary for good classroom success, a child will have difficulty learning feel very frustrated and confused about why they are having trouble.

A psycho-educational evaluation is conducted in order to isolate the particular deficit (or deficits) that are interfering with learning. A prime example of a learning disorder this is found in “dyslexics”, who often have trouble learning to “sound out” or “decode” the letters and groups of letters they see on a page they are reading. This deficit wasn’t always a problem: around the time of the Civil War in America, every town had a teacher who would write letters to mail, and read incoming mail. Most people could not read or write well. In comparison, reading is a primary skill for learning in the modern era. Beyond that, students are expected to be strong readers, as well as to be strong in the (complimentary) skill of written expression.

Often, children can read, but not as strongly as they perform in other subject areas. Every child with a learning disorder will “compensate” for their weakness. Often, dyslexic children will sight-read in the early grades, and work around their learning disorder for a while. By middle school, the difficulty of reading material increases, and sight-reading fails as a strategy.

A child may read with poor accuracy, but good comprehension. They may have to read slowly, perhaps to re-read passages more than the child at the next desk. These are common problems diagnosed through testing, and may require ‘extended-time” accommodations and other strategies to enhance learning and performance.

Is testing something that can clearly show why a child is having an academic problem?

Yes, testing is a very accurate way to isolate the processing deficits of a student, and to clearly show why this “deficit” makes it hard for children to learn certain types of material. It may help to read parts of the sample report on my website, which demonstrate how testing works, and how the connections between scores and observations in an evaluation lead to a diagnosis and recommendations for parents.

Besides showing the problems, does testing provide other useful information.

Learning-disabled children usually know that something is hard for them. Typically, they believe they are either “stupid” or they are told they are “not trying”. It’s heartbreaking to talk to a child with a learning disability, who has already acquired this label. Sisters and brothers may not be experiencing the same problem. , Usually, a child has no capacity to tell themselves they have a learning disability, so testing is an intervention that can reassure children that they are not at fault, and should not blame themselves for a problem that is a burden to them on a daily basis. Children benefit from testing because it “de-mystifies” them. They learn the real reasons for their struggle. Testing leads to strategies to “work around” their learning disability, and shows how they have already “compensated” for their learning disability” (often by becoming unusually capable in other subject areas). One typical compensation is found when children who read slowly, or with poor comprehension, have very strong abilities to memorize information they hear in the classroom. Their verbal memory is strengthened because they rely on this process to gain and store information, which is hard to learn through reading.

When are children usually tested?

Children are tested most often at three ages:

  1. in pre-school, when they may show delays in the development of certain language, motor (movement) or cognitive skills. Often, these children are provided services through their pre-school, and children under the age of 5 are provided with services free of charge through funding by the federal government;
  2. around ages 7 or 8, when children move into the core academic skills (reading, math, speaking about ideas in complex ways) that become the basis for classroom instruction and learning for the rest of their academic careers;
  3. from ages 15 to 17, when their ability to compensate for their learning disorder may weaken, and the problems become more noticeable to teachers and parents. Children in this group will often require extended-time accommodations and other interventions that will help them demonstrate their true abilities. Happily, there are now a great number of “assistive technologies” that can be downloaded on a phone, to help children overcome their difficulties to some degree.

When do children need to be re-evaluated?

Many children are re-evaluated in order to continue to receive the accommodations and specialized instruction that has benefitted them. This may happen every four years. If parents are interested in having testing to gain extended-time accommodations on the A.C.T. or S.A.T., this is best done when the child is in 10th or 11th grade, as their accommodations will be covered through at least the first several years of college (and often throughout college).

How long does testing take, and what is involved?

Testing requires 7 or 8 hours of time meeting with me. I sit across a table from the student and present them with problems and questions that can be scored objectively, and these scores and my clinical observations become the basis of the evaluation. It takes about a week or 10 days for me to prepare the report, and then I meet with a student and their parents to present findings to them. The meetings can be bundled into two or three separate visits, ranging from 3 to 4 hours each, depending on the age and stamina of the student.

How much does testing cost, and does insurance reimburse for the cost?

The problem with testing is time and money. I charge $4200 for an evaluation, soup to nuts, although I am sometimes able to offer a lower fee to families who cannot afford my full fee. Insurance companies generally view psycho-educational testing as an “educational” service and do not reimburse for testing for this reason. I do not accept any insurance directly for testing or other services.

Learning disabilities are lifelong disorders that can be caused by heredity, problems in utero, head injuries even exposure to toxic substances. Learning disabilities are NOT related to low intelligence. Most people living with learning disabilities have above average intelligence, the disability just impacts their ability to function well in school, at work or at home. Testing for learning disabilities in adults can help provide the much needed support and training to help excell in life.

To find out more and to see how Peter Meiland Ph.D can help you with
learning disabilities testing and support, contact him today.