An investigation of cognitive measures of elementary students identified as having a specific learning disability

Nielsen, Lynda
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement ACT of 2004 (IDEIA; 2004) regulations makes provisions for the use of a pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses to identify students with a specific learning disability. The assessment batteries, WJ-III COG and the WJ-III ACH, provide cluster scores for cognitive processing abilities and achievement which can be interpreted both normatively and ipsatively to determine a pattern or profile of abilities. The purpose of the study was to determine if students who identified using a pattern of strengths and weaknesses with a deficit in reading, displayed a specific pattern of cognitive abilities.

Participants were students who had been identified with a learning disability through interpretation of a pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses. A total of 55 students met the criteria of the study: students were in first, second, or third grade; assessment using required 7 subtests of the WJ-III COG*; an identification of a reading deficit as evidenced by the reading components of the WJ-III ACH test; and an initial identification of a learning disability. *Comprehension-Knowledge (Gc), Long-Term Retrieval ( Glr), Visual-Spatial Thinking (Gv), Auditory Processing (Ga), Fluid Reasoning (Gf), Processing Speed (Gs), and Short-Term Memory (Gsm).

Multiple regression analysis was used to evaluate the predictive abilities of the cognitive cluster scores. Only Gf was determined to be predictive of the reading ability, reading comprehension (Beta =.503, p=.006). Correlational Analysis found moderate correlations between the COG tests of Gf Gc and Gsm and the ACH tests of Basic Reading Skills (BRS) and Reading Comprehension (RC). The percentage of students making scores less than 85 on a cluster was greatest for Gsm (70%), Glr (69%), and Gc (50%), indicating that most students were identified with at least one of these scores as a normative deficit. Subtests scores (or narrow abilities) which demonstrated a moderate correlation with reading scores were: Verbal comprehension, Visual Auditory Learning, Concept Formation, General Information, Auditory Attention and Analysis Syntheses (for RC only).

Results of independent sample t tests indicated that there were no differences in gender among scores of cognitive abilities. Grade level differences indicated a significant difference between third grade Glr scores and first grade Glr scores. Scores related to ethnicity showed significant differences in Gc, Gf and Gsm between Caucasian students and student who were either Hispanic or African American.

This study demonstrates that Gf may be predictive of reading ability in the area of reading comprehension, but Gsm, Glr and Gc may be the most importance factors to consider when determining the student's needs for instruction and remediation.

Education, C-H-C theory, Cognitive measures, Patterns of strengths & weaknesses, Specific learning disability