Alias: Aptitude

Be aware. You may become totally overwhelmed when you get the results of the special education testing on your child. There is a lot of "stuff" on that report! And much of it sounds like a foreign language to many people.

You get one piece the results from the Intelligence part of the test. This is extremely important information, but know that it will most likely come in disguise.

One of its disguises, or aliases, might be "Broad Cognitive Ability". Another may be "Aptitude." But, basically, they are measures of the same thing - your child's ability to process and learn information. So, for the sake of keeping things simple, let's just call it "aptitude."

As I've stated many times, in order for a child to be considered learning disabled, he has to show an average "aptitude" for learning. He must have the same ability to learn as well as any other child of his age or grade. An average aptitude score would be about 100, with anything between 85 and 115 being in the average range.

There are many different tests that measure a child's aptitude. One of these tests is the WISC-III. The Performance, or Perceptual Organization, section is the part that measures aptitude. It is divided into subtests, or smaller tests, and they assess different things that make up a person's aptitude.

Another common test used to measure aptitude is the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery - Revised. The aptitude section of this test is called the Tests of Cognitive Ability, and the overall aptitude score is called "Broad Cognitive Ability". It also has smaller tests called subtests, to measure aptitude, but they measure aptitude in a little different way than the WISC does.

There are other tests to determine your child's aptitude that don't involve reading or writing. Sometimes these tests are given if there is a language problem that might interfere with getting a true picture of the child's ability.

The important things to remember are that 1) you will probably see a score from one of these tests on your child's report, and 2) that score should be within the range of 85 to 115, for the most part.

The information you get from these scores will also tell you what the child is having difficulty with. For example, perhaps he has difficulty remembering what he sees. Perhaps he can't remember more than 1 or 2 directions at a time. Perhaps he can't process new information as fast as other children. These are important clues to letting you and the teachers know what to work on with your child and how to best help him.

When you get this information, the next thing that will happen is that this "aptitude" score will be compared with the child's "achievement" score.

His achievement score is a measure of what he knows and what he has learned. These will be his scores in things like reading, written language, and math. In order for your child to show a learning disability, there has to be a large gap between his "aptitude" score (his ability to process information and learn) and what he has actually learned.

In other words, the report is showing that, although the child is able to learn as well as anyone else of his age or grade, something is causing this to not happen the way it should.

Why is that happening? When the pieces of the evaluation are put together, it should provide information about why your child is not learning the way the other children are. It will provide clues to you and his teachers about how to help him in the best way possible and how to help him help himself.

For more plain talk about learning disabilities, please visit us at

About the Author

Sandy Gauvin is a retired educator who has seen learning disabilities from many perspectives - as the parent of a daughter with learning disabilities, as the teacher of children with learning disabilities, and as an advocate for others who have diagnosed and unrecognized learning disabilities. Sandy shares her wisdom and her resources at

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