Learning disabilities, behavior disorders, mental and physical health impairments, or other non-apparent disabilities may be present, but undiagnosed, in a young person. A screening process may be needed to determine whether a diagnostic assessment, conducted by a trained specialist, should be provided. Unfortunately, screening is not properly understood or implemented by many youth service professionals and administrators. Because factors such as normal adolescent angst, cultural issues, and medications can affect the accuracy of screens, they should never be used to label a youth with a disability or to deny services or program access.
Schools, workforce programs, and service providers should have specific policies about when and how to screen participants and refer them for further assessment. Screening instruments should be carefully selected based on their specificity, sensitivity, and predictive value as well as their appropriateness for the youth population served. Collaboration across agencies should be proactively arranged in order to ensure that referrals occur without delay to professionals with the expertise to conduct more in-depth diagnostic assessments.
This brief addresses key issues in screening and assessment, including promising practices, key actors, developing an action plan, examples, and additional resources.