Learning Differences and Disabilities

There are many reasons why a child may fall behind academically. When a delay in academic progress becomes significant a learning difference or disability may be suspected. In Texas, and many other states, a Response to Intervention approach has been developed to address learning delays. Sometimes children don’t respond to intervention, or their difficulties are quite significant, and it is important to initiate assessment sooner, rather than later. A comprehensive assessment can assit in developing an appropriate intervention plan, and avoid wasting time and resources.  Jane and Gary Yorke have over 40 combined years of experience evaluating children. 


1) What is a Learning Disability?
A learning disability is a neurological disorder that results in significant difficulty reading, writing, spelling, or performing math.  A learning disability does not result from low intelligence. A learning disability may be diagnosed when there is imperfect ability to read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
2) How is a Learning Disability assessed?
Assessment involves a clinical interview, obtaining a thorough academic and developmental history from parents and teachers, and a psychological assessment.

3) How will I know if my child requires an assessment for Learning Disabilities?
The classroom teacher is often your best resource. By maintaining contact with your child’s teacher you will know if your child is keeping pace with their classmates.  Signs of learning disabilites vary by age.


Many states, including Texas, have adopted a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to meeting the needs of children who have learning problems. In the past, children in need of special education were routinely sent out of the general education classroom to the resource room or special education room. Many parents were concerned this stigmatized their children.

Currently children are identified as needing extra help when they fail to achieve on measures such as: grade level standards as measured by in-class test scores, statewide assessment scores, standardized achievement test scores, and benchmark tests. If a child is determined to be having academic difficulty they are referred to Tier 1 of the Response to Intervention model.

In Tier 1 the child is monitored and taught by the classroom teacher with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) goals in mind. Students are evaluated regularly in the classroom to determine the progress they are making. Students who need additional help are referred to Tier 2.

Tier 2 services are individual or small group direct services delivered in the classroom that are in addition to core class instruction. This level includes research-based programs, strategies, and procedures designed to supplement, enhance, and support Tier 1 activities. Again the child is tested to monitor progress and is referred to Tier 3 if additional support is needed.

Tier 3 is implemented when a student has not responded adequately to Tiers 1 and 2. The student receives specific, custom-designed individual or small group instruction. This instruction is individualized, intensive and targets the student’s specific skill deficits. These services are delivered in a room outside of the general education classroom.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a prevention model-not specifically an approach used to identify students who have learning disabilities. RTI does not address the gifted student who is not working to potential. The RTI approach does not adequately address the needs of high schools students as they DO need formal Psychological Testing to obtain accommodations on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT.

Universities also require formal testing before they will grant accommodations to a disabled student. At any time the school may decide to complete additional testing but are not compelled to do so by parental request. Parents may also obtain assessment outside of the school and may request the school consider the results of the assessment.