Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities: Volume 16


Table of contents

(10 chapters)

This chapter reviews problems in the identification of learning disabilities, with particular reference to issues involving discrepancy between IQ and achievement as a criterion for definition. Alternatives to present procedures for identification of learning disabilities are described. It is concluded that no presently proposed alternative meets all necessary criteria for identification of learning disabilities, and that radically altering or eliminating present conceptualizations of learning disabilities may be problematic. The major problems of identification of learning disabilities – including over-identification, variability, and specificity – can be addressed, it is suggested, by increasing specificity and consistency of state criteria and strict adherence to identification criteria on the local implementation level. However, further research in alternative methods for identifying learning disabilities is warranted.

Most definitions of learning disabilities (LD) include a qualification that adequate general education instruction was received and the child with LD did not benefit. Rarely is this tenet assessed in either practice or research before a diagnosis is made. In this chapter we review three studies that investigated children’s responsiveness to general education reading instruction as an indicator of the need for more intensive interventions. Adequacy of instruction was quantified by children’s level and rate of progress as measured by curriculum-based measures of oral reading fluency. This model of identification was based on Fuchs and Fuchs (1998) treatment-validity model wherein children who do not respond to interventions provided in the general education classroom are potential candidates for special education services. The results of the studies reviewed indicate that the model is valid in that: (a) children who differ from their peers on level and slope of performance have more severe academic and behavioral problems than children who have IQ-achievement discrepancies or low achievement; (b) children who demonstrate persistent non-responsiveness over three years differ from other at-risk children on reading, reading-related, and behavioral measures; and (c) at-risk children who participated in specially-designed general education interventions had better outcomes than at-risk children who did not participate.

The primary purpose of this chapter is to synthesize the existing research that describes children who are unresponsive to generally effective early literacy interventions. Studies were selected in which: (a) children ranged from preschoolers to third graders and were at-risk for reading disabilities; (b) treatments targeted early literacy; (c) outcomes reflected reading development; and (d) students’ unresponsiveness to intervention was described. The search yielded 23 studies, eight of which were designed primarily to identify characteristics of unresponsive students; the remaining 15 studies focused on treatment effectiveness, but also identified and described unresponsive students. A majority of unresponsive students had phonological awareness deficits; additional characteristics included phonological retrieval or encoding deficits, low verbal ability, behavior problems, and developmental delays. Methodological issues are discussed that complicate comparisons of non-responders across studies. A secondary purpose of this chapter is to describe findings from recent longitudinal studies that support the hypothesis that non-responders may be the truly reading disabled. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

There has been much discussion in the literature in recent years on the problems involved in the identification of children with reading disabilities. One of the most influential sources of knowledge in the field of learning disabilities is the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). This agency has typically been a major funding source for methodologically rigorous reading intervention research. Further, such research has contributed significantly to the validity of identifying children suspected of learning disabilities as “treatment resistors” (e.g. Vellutino et al., 1996). Yet, the NICHD has recently been the focus of some controversy. The purpose of this chapter was to synthesize NICHD funded research conducted over the past 10 years via a meta-analysis to determine what can be generalized from this body of research that can be applied to the identification of students with learning disabilities in reading. The results of the synthesis were that a prototypical intervention study has a mean effect size (ES) of 0.67 (SD=0.42), indicating that most interventions designed to increase reading skills were effective. The overall ES ranged, however, from 0.19 to 1.76, and therefore some criterion could be established for identifying treatment resistors. Performance below an overall ES of 0.25 was suggested as one of several criteria for identifying children with potential reading disabilities. However, this suggestion must be put in the context of intervention outcomes. The synthesis indicated that: (a) performance was more pronounced on skill or process measures (e.g. ES varies from 0.45 to 1.28 on measures of segmentation and pseudoword reading) than on measures of actual reading (ES varies from 0.17 to 0.60 on real word and comprehension measures); (b) the magnitude of effect sizes were more related to instructional activity (e.g. explicit instruction/practice) than to the content of instruction (e.g. type of phonics instruction); and (c) the bulk of intervention studies focused on a narrow range of reading behaviors (i.e. phonological awareness). Implications related to identification and sound teaching practice versus content training of reading instruction (e.g. phonological skills, comprehension skills) are discussed.

The chapter begins by presenting a case study of a 4th grade student, who has been referred by his teacher for an evaluation. However before this case can be completely understood, it is necessary to understand the limitations associated with the general intelligence approach of assessment. The chapter provides an overview of these limitations and suggests using a processing-based approach instead of a general intelligence approach. The second section outlines the Planning, Attention, Simultaneous, and Successive (PASS) theory and approach toward assessment, which is supported by neuropsychological research. The final section returns to the case study and demonstrates how the information gathered using the PASS theory and Cognitive Assessment System (CAS) can be used to guide interventions for various learning disabilities.

The purpose of this investigation was to examine the utility of the Vineland Scales-Expanded Form for an assessment of disabilities in individuals with Mental Retardation (MR) and a sensorimotor disorder. The Vineland score profiles of individuals with MR and a sensorimotor disorder were compared with those of matched peers with MR but without the associated disorder. The disorder group exhibited lower scores only in the adaptive areas relating to the sensorimotor disorder. The Vineland Scales can therefore evaluate the adaptive area deficits of individuals with MR and a sensorimotor disorder. As the Vineland Scales measure everyday living skills, they can be used for an assessment of sensorimotor disabilities. The utility of disability assessment in individuals with MR is discussed.

This chapter summarizes the quantitative literature on whether intervention outcomes for students with learning disabilities (LD) are influenced by variations in IQ and reading level. The analysis clearly shows that a significant intelligence×reading level interaction emerges in treatment outcomes. Across a broad array of interventions it was found that studies which include samples with reading and IQ scores in the 16th and 25th percentile range (standard scores between 84 and 91) yield significantly higher effect sizes than studies that include samples in same low reading range but with higher IQ scores. An analysis of subsets of this data yield similar findings. Implications for definitions of learning disabilities that include measures of intelligence are discussed.

This investigation was intended to examine the relationship among perceived competence, anxiety, and mathematical and verbal achievement in a population of male and female Italian middle school students. One hundred and eighty students were administered measures of trait anxiety, and measures of state anxiety were administered immediately prior to administering achievement tests in math and literature. In addition, students were administered six subscales of a perceived competence scale. Analyses of these data yielded a moderate negative correlation between mathematics achievement and state anxiety for the math test, and a descriptively smaller negative correlation between the literature scores and state anxiety for the literature test. Significant correlations were also observed between achievement and perceived competence for academic ability. The two state anxiety measures were found to be highly correlated; however, trait anxiety was not statistically related to academic achievement in either math or literature. A moderate negative correlation was observed between perceived competence for academic ability and state anxiety for math and a somewhat lower correlation between perceived competence for academic ability and literature achievement. Males scored higher than females on the test of trait anxiety; however, females and males did not differ on any other anxiety or academic measures, including perceived competence for academic ability, math achievement, or literature achievement. Implications for future research are discussed.

This chapter examines the problems involved in evaluating the cognitive and motivational skills of college students of different ability and academic success. A battery is presented which examines students’ self-regulation and some factors underlying it. A study with 240 undergraduates at the University of Padua shows some implications in the use of the battery and proposes a causal model of self-regulation. Self-regulation, defined with reference to the basic competencies of elaboration, organization and self-evaluation, appears critical for student success and is related to students’ implicit theories, self-attribution, academic self-efficacy and motivation to use strategies.

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Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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