For years I have advised anyone with a child struggling in academics, to request a full assessment for learning disorders. Now a compelling article from the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry has documented what I have noticed in my practice.

Too often I see schools and diagnosticians testing kids for learning disorders, one disorder at a time. In other words, the parent complains that the child isn’t doing well in reading, so the school tests for a reading disorder. Later, the parent comes to me complaining that the child has been identified with a reading disorder but is still doing poorly in school, despite accommodations for the learning disorder.

In a recent study, 2,586 children were administered an IQ and standardized battery of tests to assess reading, spelling and arithmetic. Of the children identified with a learning disorder, 49% were identified with a second learning disorder. Additionally, there was a high trend noted in immediate family members with similar learning disorders.

What does this mean? The results of this study, are similar to what I have seen in my practice. To adequately identify academic problems a full assessment of all learning areas needs to be administered, as opposed to the now common approach in many schools of specifically addressing the singular-referral problem area. Additionally, parents may want to discuss the extent of problem learning areas in siblings.

Landerl, K. (2010). Comorbidity of learning disorders: Prevalence and familial transmission. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 287-294.