Assessment of Learning Disabilities: DSM-5 and Beyond

The Presenter

Robin L. Peterson, Ph.D., ABPP is a pediatric neuropsychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado and Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She received a doctorate in child clinical psychology from the University of Denver and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric neuropsychology from the University of Denver and Children’s Hospital Colorado. She previously worked as director of the Developmental Neuropsychology Clinic at the University of Denver. She is board certified in Clinical Neuropsychology and Pediatric Clinical Neuropsychology through the American Board of Professional Psychology. She has clinical and research interests in neurodevelopmental disorders and pediatric traumatic brain injury. She is currently a co-Investigator for the Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. She is an author on over 20 peer-reviewed publications, multiple book chapters, and the book Diagnosing Learning Disorders: From Science to Practice (3rd Edition) which was published by Guilford Press earlier this year. She recently served as invited chair for a symposium titled Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Reading Disabilities at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society. Before studying to be a psychologist, she taught kindergarten and first grade, which sparked her interest in understanding how all children learn to read. She remains active in teaching and training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Training Topic and Overview

This workshop will begin with a brief overview of current scientific knowledge about learning disabilities (LDs) impacting reading, writing, and mathematics, including their etiology, brain bases, neuropsychology, and cross-cultural manifestations. Dr. Peterson will review the evidence bearing on various diagnostic models, including age discrepancy, IQ discrepancy, patterns of strengths and weaknesses, and response to intervention. She will discuss common comorbidities of LDs and describe how a multiple cognitive deficit model helps explain the frequent co-occurrence of neurodevelopmental disorders. She will present some of her own recent research within the Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center that tested the validity of the DSM-5 framework for LD diagnosis.

The remainder of the workshop will focus on the implications of this scientific background for individual diagnosis and treatment planning. Dr. Peterson will present an assessment model that integrates history, observations, and test results and discuss how to share results orally and in writing. She will explore common diagnostic quandaries in LD assessment related to severity, specificity, and etiology and will review evidence- based interventions for LDs. Case studies will be used for illustration.


Workshop Objectives

  1. Participants will discuss pros and cons of diagnostic models of learning disabilities (LDs), including age discrepancy, IQ discrepancy, patterns of strengths and weaknesses, and response to intervention.
  2. Participants will identify universals and cultural constraints in the manifestation of LDs across countries/languages as well as for different demographic groups within this country.
  3. Participants will list disorders that commonly co-occur with LDs and will discuss how the multiple cognitive deficit model accounts for this comorbidity.
  4. Participants will describe the challenges of applying categorical diagnosis to a continuum of academic skill and will discuss the implications for cases falling in the “gray area.”
  5. Participants will synthesize information related to developmental history, educational history, behavioral observations, and test results to arrive at accurate differential diagnosis and treatment planning for LDs.

Continuing Education

This workshop qualifies for 6.5 hours of CE credits for psychologists. This program is co-sponsored by SPA. SPA is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. SPA maintains responsibility for the program and its content. CE credits will be available for an additional $15 (see registration and payment form below).

Tentative Workshop Schedule

9:00-10:30 AM: I. Scientific Foundations

A. Diagnostic frameworks

B. Genetic and environmental etiologies

C. Brain bases

D. Neuropsychology

10:30-10:45: Break

A. Common comorbidities

B. Multiple cognitive deficit model

C. Cross-cultural findings

D. Achievement gaps

12:30-1:30: Lunch (Provided by CAS)

1:30-3:15: III. The Assessment Model

A. History, observations, and test results

B. Performance validity in LD assessment

C. Differential diagnosis: Into the gray area

D. Oral feedback and written reports

3:15-3:30: Break

3:30-4:30: IV. Case Studies

4:30-5:00-: V. Questions and Conclusions


Due to the popularity of this workshop, the location of the May 3rd Assessment of Learning Disabilities workshop has been changed to the following:

Sturm Hall, Room 251

University of Denver

2000 E. Asbury Ave,

Denver, CO 80208

***Location of Sturm Hall is at the red graduation cap***

Parking: Paid parking is available in either lot 317 (by the tennis courts on Asbury Ave near High St) or lot 321 (near Evans and Gaylord St). There is construction at DU so please allow plenty of time to navigate the parking. Here is a photo showing the

locations of lots 317 & 321. 

Special Accommodations

GSPP is compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. Please feel free to notify the committee if any additional accommodations are needed or if you have any dietary restrictions.

 Sturm Hall, Room 251, University of Denver, 2000 E. Asbury Ave, Denver, CO 80208