What Does a Psychological Assessment for Learning Disorders Look Like?


In the first three installments of this series, we’ve delved into the basics of psychological assessments. More specifically, we’ve narrowed things down to discuss testing for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As we wrap up, let’s shine a light on another common need: psychological assessment for learning disorders.

When a child is struggling in school, such an assessment can be a valuable tool for discerning which areas can be best supported. It is the gold standard for assessing and possibly diagnosing the child. If a learning disorder is deemed to be present, the evaluation is how mental health professionals can determine what happens next.

What is a Learning Disorder?

A specific learning disorder, commonly known as a learning disability refers to a condition in which an individual faces significant difficulty in acquiring certain academic skills, even though they possess average or above average intelligence. These challenges are intrinsic to the individuals learning process and are not a result of external factors like poor teaching or lack of effort. A learning disorder can manifest in various ways, such as struggling with reading, writing, math, or other academic areas. Early identification and appropriate interventions are crucial to provide the necessary support and accommodations to help individuals with specific learning disorders thrive academically and reach their full potential in various aspects of life.

What are the Different Kinds of Specific Learning Disorders?

1) Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Reading. This type involves persistent difficulties in accurate and fluent word recognition, reading fluency, and/or reading comprehension. Individuals with these challenges may struggle to read at the expected level for their age and intelligence, leading to challenges in academic achievement and overall learning.

2) Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Written Expression. This is characterized by persistent difficulties in expressing oneself in writing. People with these challenges may struggle with handwriting, spelling, and organizing their thoughts in written form, affecting their ability to convey information effectively.

3) Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Mathematics. This pertains to persistent difficulties in understanding mathematical concepts, performing accurate calculations, and solving math related problems. Individuals with these challenges may have trouble with basic arithmetic, understanding mathematical symbols and grasping mathematical reasoning.

Who Performs a Psychological Assessment for Learning Disorders?

The reasons why a learning disorder arises are complex. As a result, the psychological assessment team can cover a lot of ground. It will begin with a registered psychologist, but other practitioners may include:

Speech and language therapists

Occupational therapists

A psychologist is needed because: 

Cognitive functioning must be assessed 

A child’s emotional state can play a large role in learning situations

Other underlying psychological conditions might be present

What Types of Tests Will Be Offered?

Each evaluation is as unique as the child being assessed, but the child will likely be tested in areas like: 


Motor skills

Standardized tests to gauge academic abilities

Cognitive abilities

Executive functioning

Learning skills


Visuospatial skills

Conversation, observation, and questions are also a fundamental part of the assessment. The assessment team will carefully observe the child in action as they perform cognitive and academic tasks. Also, people in the child’s life often provide very useful context, e.g., parents, siblings, caretakers, teachers, coaches, or school administrators. 

How Long is the Evaluation and How Do Kids Handle It?

Generally, a psychological assessment for learning disorders takes 4-6 hours. Part of the assessment is finding out what time of day works best for the child and how long they can go before needing a break. This frequently relates to their age. But typically, such testing is broken into 2-3 testing sessions and is rarely performed after school when children tend to be already tired of sitting still and doing work.

When is a Psychological Evaluation for Learning Disorders Needed?

This is not easy to say, but for sure, it’s best to neither ignore red flags nor assume the worst. It can feel daunting to witness your child struggling, but there are so many possible factors. No one knows your kid as you do, but for something like a learning disorder, you will require a qualified registered psychologist to weigh in and make the diagnosis.

Simply put, if you or someone else notices a potential issue, keep a close on eye on it without alarming the child. Talk to someone at your child’s school about your options. If you know other parents who have been through a similar scenario, their input can be invaluable.

At Onyx, we can provide the support and answers you need about psychological assessments and whether this path is right for your child. Give our office a call today to book a consultation with a qualified member of our assessment team.