In general, screening for learning disabilities (LD) has long been problematic (Mellard, 2000). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) LD is described as a disability impacting functioning in one or more life areas. However, one can find many other definitions of LD across professionals, agencies, and organizations (Gregg, Scott, McPeek & Ferri, 1999). Differences in assessment strategies and tests, and the misuse of tests are further challenges associated with determining an LD condition (United States Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, 2000).
With regard to Spanish-speaking individuals the challenges are even greater, and a need clearly exists for reliable and valid screening for LD, as is indicated by the number of agencies that have expressed an interest in such a measure. The inadequacy and absence of measures in Spanish is compounded for the agencies by a lack of qualified bilingual evaluators, posing further challenges to accurate, timely assessment of Spanish-speaking adults. Often this lack of appropriate measures and evaluators leads to the misuse of tests because English language evaluators try to use tools at their disposal to serve their clients, albeit inadequately.
The Learning Disability Screening Project for Spanish-Speaking Adults was designed to identify brief and accurate learning disability screening measures appropriate for Spanish-speaking adults. Accurate screening is also essential because LD diagnoses are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which would open doors to education, job training, and jobs that would have otherwise been closed.
The design of the project was to validate a Spanish-speaking learning disability screening tool. The criterion group, however, was too small and skewed to complete the goal.
Even so, several major implications can still be made from this study. A wide body of research indicates the need for cultural sensitivity; its importance is also stated explicitly in the Standards for Psychological and Educational Testing. Other implications include: low levels of literacy, the need for additional work on learning disability screening tools, and creating tools that are appropriate for different individuals. Supports should be provided, such as Spanish translation and translators; ideally the individuals providing these services would be bilingual and the measures would not be translations, but adaptations normed in Spanish. Other supports including: visual aids, and careful explanation of agencies’ processes and procedures such as for entitlement to services and benefits should be implemented.
As is clear from this study, the screening of LD adults and their accurate diagnosis remains an area where much work needs to be done. Accurate screening is a goal that would allow for the more careful allocation of limited diagnostic resources to those individuals who truly require assessment. It is our hope that the current study serves to continue addressing these issues and to encourage other to do this work.
Daryl Mellard, Principal Investigator
The University of Kansas
JR Pearson Hall
1122 West Campus Rd., Room 521
Lawrence, KS 66045-3101