Washington and Kansas stand on the forefront of state efforts to develop and rigorously test screening tools that can be used to identify the possibility of a learning disability among TANF clients.64 The Kansas tool has been validated for use with TANF clients, and, although it contains more questions than the Washington tool, it requires relatively little time to implement and score. In Kansas, all TANF clients who are work program participants are screened for learning disabilities. If the screen indicates the likelihood of a learning disability, the individual is referred for further assessment, often by the Vocational Rehabilitation program or in some cases through a local mental health or education provider.
We identified two tools designed to screen for learning disabilities among TANF clients.
The Washington tool is a short, 13-item screen that was validated for use with TANF clients. It is intended to identify individuals who potentially have a learning disability but is neither an assessment nor a diagnostic tool. A number of states have adopted Washington's tool due to its ease of administration. For example, Minnesota was attracted to Washington's tool because it had been rigorously tested and would be easy for contractors to implement. Services in Minnesota, including case management, employability planning, and screening for learning disabilities, are provided through a number of decentralized service contractors.65
64 The National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) has also undertaken an effort to assist literacy programs enhance services to adults with learning disabilities. Although not specifically targeted for TANF recipients, NIFL's series Bridges to Practice offers a review of tools used to identify learning disabilities and offers a training curriculum for literacy professionals.
65 However, TANF officials in Minnesota indicated problems with inconsistent implementation of the tool, given the number of service contractors and their varying processes. This is but one challenge associated with working with partners, discussed further in Question Seven.