Identification of specific learning disabilities: A comparison of three patterns of strengths and weaknesses approaches



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The reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in 2004 allowed use of “other alternative research-based procedures” (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1414) in addition to the traditional discrepancy model for determining the presence of a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), including establishing a pattern of strengths and weaknesses (PSW) by evaluating various cognitive, achievement, and neuropsychological processes. Increased latitude in identification procedures raises questions about consistency of outcomes (i.e., determination of SLD) across identification methods. The current study compares the identification outcomes and diagnosis consistency of three assessment models: Cross Battery Assessment (XBA), Dehn’s PSW Model, and the Core-Selective Evaluation Process (C-SEP). It addresses the following questions: (a) what is the percentage of overlap in SLD identification across the three PSW approaches for 50 students from an urban North Texas school district previously identified with SLD via XBA? and (b) what percentage of 25 students in the same urban North Texas school district who were not identified via XBA would be identified using one or both of the other PSW approaches? Results indicate low consistency among models for the cases included in the study; potential explanations and implications for practice, research, and policy are discussed.



specific learning disability, assessment