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Who Can Diagnose LD and/or ADHD

By: Kathleen Ross Kidder
Many professionals are involved in the diagnosis of LD: psychologists, educational specialists, and other professionals who work in specialized fields such as speech and language. This article identifies licensure requirements and who can diagnose LD and/or ADHD.

This table explains the role of some of the professionals who provide services. Recall that many of these professionals can suspect LD and/or ADHD but all are not licensed, or have the needed certifications, to diagnose the disorders. It is always important to ask the professional about his/her credentials. When you go to a person in a private practice, not in the school system, it is important to determine if the professional has the needed license to be in private practice and to make the diagnosis of LD and/or ADHD.

Professional

Role of Professional

Licensure

Can they diagnose LD and/or ADHD?

Clinical Psychologist

Provides assessment of intellectual and emotional functioning. Provides therapy for emotional and behavioral problems for individuals and groups. In general, does not do educational testing needed to diagnose LD.

PH.D. and licensure required in most states for private practice.

LD. Yes, either by doing complete psycho/educational assessment or by including educational assessment of educational specialist.

ADHD- Yes.

Cannot prescribe medication for ADHD.

School Psychologist

Provides assessment of learning and school related problems. Provides therapy that relates to emotional and behavioral problems evolving from school distress. Trained primarily to do both intellectual and educational testing. Can also assess emotional functioning. Usually practice in public school systems. Increasingly in private practice as well.

Ph.D. or MA Licensure in most states if in private practice.

School certification within school systems.

LD-Yes.

ADHD- No, in general, in schools. This is a medical condition.*

-Yes with training if private practice. Cannot prescribe medication for ADHD.

Educational Psychologist

Provides educational testing. Some trained to provide assessment of cognitive, intellectual functioning as well. Important question since test companies define a Level C test which is to be administered by a PhD-trained psychologist or a professional whose training has been approved by the company who produces the test. Many tests of intellectual functioning are Level C tests. Not, in general, trained to assess emotional functioning.

Ph.D. or MA

Licensure if in private practice.

LD- Yes if qualified to do assessment of intellectual functioning or if uses results of assessment done by PhD level psychologist or trained school psychologist.

ADHD- Can offer guidance.* Depends of level of training. Cannot prescribe medication

Neuro-
psychologist

Ph.D. level psychologist who assesses brain processing and functioning. May not be skilled in administering educational tests. In general does not assess emotional functioning.

Licensure required if in private practice in most states.

LD-Yes but may need to obtain educational from educational specialist.

ADHD- Yes.

Psychometrist

Assessment specialist. Often found in school systems, forensic settings, or mental health centers.

Most states do not license for private practice.

LD- Yes.

ADHD- In general no unless special training

Educational Specialist

Assessment of learning and behavioral problems.

Not licensed

LD-No

ADHD-No

School Counselor

Counseling and help with school problems.

Not licensed for private practice

LD-No

ADHD-No

Vocational Counselor

Employment counseling, assessment for employment.

Not licensed for private practice

LD-No

ADHD-No

Social Worker

Therapy and counseling for emotional and behavioral problem. Help in finding resources.

Licensed in most states for private practice.

LD-No

ADHD- No

Speech and Language Specialist

Specialist diagnosing speech and language problems. These can be a component of a learning disability. Part of a diagnostic team.

MA. Private practice and schools. Licensure and certification may be required.

LD-No

ADHD-No

Occupational Therapist

Specialist working with motor and visual-motor problems. These can be a component of a learning disability. Part of a diagnostic team.

MA. Private practice and in schools. Licensure and certification required in some states.

LD-No

ADHD-No

Psychiatrist

Medical doctor who specializes in the functioning of the mind. Does therapy for emotional and behavioral problems.

State medical board certification required.

LD-No

ADHD-Yes

Can prescribe medication

Physician

Medical doctor

State medical board certification required.

LD-No

ADHD-Yes

Can prescribe medication

*According to the US Department of Education, a medical or clinical diagnosis is not required with ADHD. This means that school psychologists may diagnose for school eligibility purposes if they are appropriately trained and experienced in doing so and if the school has a policy that permits it.

About the author

Kathleen Ross-Kidder, Ph.D. is a faculty member of the Department of Psychology at The George Washington University, a former teacher in both private and public education and a licensed school psychologist who has worked extensively in public education and private practice helping children with learning disabilities and/or ADHD and their parents.

Kathleen Ross Kidder (2002)

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