Dr. Evelyn Shatil from The Center for Brain Research and Learning Disabilities and Prof. Baruch Nevo from the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa have developed a standardized test for identifying and diagnosing learning disabilities.
The project was headed by Prof. Zvia Breznitz, the director of The Center for Brain Research and Learning Disabilities at the University of Haifa. The test diagnoses reading and writing disabilities, difficulties with second language or math and intelligence. This new test will put an end to the current situation in which diagnostic testing is done in private clinics, each with its own test with relative results based on those tested at that specific clinic. The new test was developed in Hebrew and in Arabic and is appropriate for students in first though tenth grade. The Ministry of Education is currently exploring use of the new test.
"Research that we conducted revealed that 16.5% of Israeli students suffer from some type of learning disability, but in recent years, almost 50% of students have come to school with diagnostic reports from private clinics showing some type of learning disability. The Ministry of Education cannot cope with such a large number of students who suddenly need extra help," said Prof. Breznitz.
According to Prof. Breznitz, there are two basic problems with the current method of testing. The first is that there is no standardized test; a child may get different results if he is tested in different clinics. The second problem is the cost; these tests often cost thousands of shekels and are prohibitively expensive for many children who are in need of an evaluation. "At The Center for Brain Research and Learning Disabilities we decided to standardize things. We developed a diagnostic test that is administered at a grade level, not at a personal level. When the same exact test is given to all of the students nationwide, we can define the norms and identify those who need extra help."
The new test will be administered to all of the children in the class and will be able to diagnose not only those with a learning difficulty or disability but also those with a small delay that a student can overcome in a short period. After analyzing the results of the test, the testers will also know if a child has a disability or difficulties that stem from low intelligence. The treatment recommended as part of the new program is also different from currently accepted methods. "By segmented analysis of the results, we can define not only a child's weaknesses but also his strengths. Our method of treatment focuses on improving a student's strong skills which will in turn help improve weak skills," explained Prof. Breznitz.
The University of Haifa research team is aware that this test may be met with opposition from private diagnostic clinics. "This new test will put an end to the testing only available to the rich. I also believe it will reduce the number of children currently diagnosed as learning disabled," she remarked.