Identifying Learning Disability Screens for Spanish-Speaking Adults

A Helpful Tool for Social Work and Welfare Practice


  • Ingrid Cordón University of California, Davis
  • Jia Y. Chong University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Kevin Grimm Arizona State University
  • Catherine Christo California State University
  • Macaria Mendoza University of California
  • Amanda Clinton American Psychological Association
  • Gail Goodman University of California, Davis



Americans with Disabilities Act, Learning disabilities, Spanish-speaking adults, screening, low-income


The successful screening for possible learning disabilities (LD) is a crucial first step in the process of identifying signs of LD, gaining assistance and/or accommodations, and obtaining a more complete LD assessment. Although Latino people are the largest ethnic minority in the United States, and more specifically in California, there remains a clear need for a valid LD screening measure that is appropriate for adult Spanish speakers, particularly low-income individuals. This study evaluated the validity of three brief measures to screen for LD among low-income Spanish-speaking adults: Empire State Screen, Welfare-to-Work [WTW] 18, and MATILDA-R. The study also provides an initial estimate of LD risk in the low-income Spanish-speaking population. To estimate the predictive utility of each screening measure, 1,040 Spanish-speaking adults were administered each of the three screens and then assessed for indications of LD using multiple scoring methods (Bateria Discrepancy Diagnosis [BDD], pattern of strengths and weaknesses [PSW], and DSM-5). The translated WTW 18 Screen and the MATILDA-R appeared most promising. A culturally-sensitive, validated LD screen will help ensure that social workers and other helping professionals have access to appropriate and legally required interventions for this marginalized population.



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