Diagnostic program can be first step in help for adults with learning disabilities

The tentacles of undiagnosed adult learning and mental health disabilities often weave their way through people’s lives, leaving a trail of unemployment, financial fragility, and social isolation, says a UWindsor psychology professor.

Clinical psychologist Annette Dufresne supervises the Psychological Services and Research Centre’s (PSRC) Adult Assessment Clinic and says that people who are struggling in life sometimes have undiagnosed learning, developmental, or mental health disabilities.

“Access to diagnostic testing is not readily available in the community,” Dr. Dufresne says. “In addition, there can be a lot of shame associated with these kinds of problems. We want people to know that this is a service we’ve been increasingly offering to the community over the past four years and since the PRSC is a training centre we can offer sliding scale fees for assessments.”

The centre supports the professional training of doctoral students in clinical psychology, under the supervision of psychologists who are members of the College of Psychologists of Ontario. Clients receive a comprehensive assessment that includes interviews, observation, psychological testing and a written report that outlines the client’s current level of functioning and recommendations for referrals for further service if necessary.

Dufresne says a formal assessment is often required for people to access special services or programs and can sometimes assist clients in accessing a disability pension, giving them a more stable source of income. In other cases, an assessment helps clients understand what accommodations and supports would help them to succeed in education or employment.

“This is a disability and people really suffer because of it,” she says. “If we can help people access the assistance they need it can provide a new direction for their life. The disability is just one aspect of a person – that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to offer. It’s about helping people find their place in the world.”

Find more information on the services available through the PRSC.