LD Mystery

We are pulling apart the LD over-identification mystery.

One piece of the puzzle has been how pupils are evaluated for learning problems: ” a predominant approach to determining whether a child has a learning disability is comparing an IQ test score (as a measure of “ability”) with an achievement test score for reading or math…..Some researchers point out that these kinds of comparisons cannot be made much before 4 th grade when “meaningful” scores can be compared. Thus a child might be learning disabled or be at risk of developing a specific learning disability but not be identified and receive special education and related services until he or she is well into elementary school” (Congress Report).

We see the origin of the “wait to fail” approach (Ed evolve). The psychologist must “get good numbers” before diagnosing LD.

But where are the LD children waiting? Here is the answer: They are buried in the SLP caseload in the speech and language impairment (SLI) category. A significant portion of SLI pupils morph into LD children. The underlying pathology for the two categories is the same, a genetically-based cognitive-linguistic processing disorder (Speech genes).

Surveying criteria across states, the processing perspective is not applied often to SLD placements. “The presence of a processing disorder, while prominent in the federal definition of SLD, was relatively absent from most states’ classification criteria. Only 13 states required determination of a processing disorder” (Greatschools).

IDEA 2004 does correctly sketch the symptoms of LD which include oral language processing:

“Oral expression
Listening comprehension
Written expression
Basic reading skill
Reading fluency skills
Reading comprehension
Mathematics calculation
Mathematics problem solving (Great schools)”

The SLI category is a holding area for later psychometric evaluation. In grades 1 and 2 SLPs carry approximately 50% of all special education pupils, whereas by age 14 the percentage drops to 4%. Congress reported: “This pattern results because most speech and language impairments are mild and tend to diminish, or disappear, as these children mature and receive speech/language therapy.” A significant number “disappear” because their symptoms move to literacy performance.

A sequence of misidentification errors is happening:

First, LD is misidentified as SLI — “Under-identification.”

Second, LD is identified but late — “Late identification.”

Third, SLI drops out of the eligibility picture — “Under-identification.”

According to the Congressional Report (1998-1999) all other disability categories remain relatively stable across age groups. The trading relationship exists between SLI and LD.

The definition of LD, however, does not explain placement of non-disabled children. They come in LATE. adding to total numbers — “Over-identification.”

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