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Clinical and Research News
New Learning Disorder Diagnosis Proposed
Psychiatric News
Volume 47 Number 3 page 17b-17b

The DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Disorders Work Group proposes that a diagnosis of specific learning disorder would have to meet these five criteria:

  • Persistent difficulties in learning academic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics during the years of formal schooling.

  • Academic skills in reading, writing, or mathematics that are well below the average range for the person’s age, gender, cultural or language group, and level of education.

  • Cognitive processes affecting learning that are well below the average range for the person’s age, gender, or cultural or language group, as manifested by individually administered measures of cognitive processing.

  • The learning difficulties are not better explained by intellectual developmental disorder, global developmental delay, or neurological, sensory (vision, hearing), or motor disorders.

  • Evidence that the learning difficulties significantly interfere with academic achievement, occupational performance, or activities of daily living.

The following “descriptive feature” specifiers would be used to diagnose learning difficulties in these areas:

  • Accurate or fluent word reading

  • Reading comprehension

  • Spelling

  • Written-language expression

  • Remembering or computing number facts

  • Mathematical reasoning

  • Information processing

The following specifiers would allow clinicians to describe the severity of the learning disorder:

  • Level 1: Requiring support.  With appropriate accommodations or support services, the individual can complete most activities accurately and efficiently. Without such support the individual will manifest completing everyday activities that require the specific academic skills that are impaired.

  • Level 2: Requiring moderate support.  During formal schooling, the individual is likely to require some intervals of intensive individualized and specialized teaching to acquire the academic skills. Also, accommodations or supportive services will be needed at least part of the day at home, school, or the workplace to complete activities accurately and efficiently.

  • Level 3: Requires very substantial support.  During formal schooling, the individual is likely to require ongoing intensive individualized and specialized teaching for most of the school years and into postsecondary education to facilitate learning academic skills. Even with an array of appropriate accommodations or services at home, school, or the workplace, the individual may not be able to complete all activities efficiently.

A full description of the proposed criteria for learning disorder is posted at www.dsm5.org/proposedrevision/Pages/NeurodevelopmentalDisorders.aspx.inline-graphic-1.gif

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