Specific Learning Disability Identification: What Constitutes a Pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses?


  • Edward Karl Schultz
  • Cynthia G. Simpson
  • Sharon Lynch


The 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and subsequent regulations published in 2006 have significantly changed the identification process for students suspected of having specific learning disabilities. Rather than using a discrepancy model contrasting intellectual and achievement test results, assessment specialists now incorporate a variety of methods to identify specific learning disabilities, including response-to-intervention, cognitive processing approaches, and the determination of a pattern of strengths and weaknesses. This article proposes a theoretical structure for determining specific learning disabilities using a pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Methods of examining multiple sources of data to demonstrate a pattern of strengths and weaknesses are discussed so that assessment teams can determine if the data converge to indicate a specific learning disability.