Critical Issues in Response-to-Intervention, Comprehensive Evaluation, and Specific Learning Disabilities Identification and Intervention: An Expert White Paper Consensus


  • LDA Expert Panel



The following Expert Panel White Paper should be considered a working document for reference purposes. This White Paper project was undertaken to address the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) concerns regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 statutory and regulatory requirements for the identification of Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD), and the subsequent U. S. Department of Education Final Regulations and Commentary regarding implementation of IDEIA (34 CFR Parts 300 and 301; Federal Register, 2006).The purpose of the White Paper is to provide additional information for and guidance to the federal government, professional organizations, practitioners, and the public. The LDA is hopeful that this document will facilitate legal, regulatory, policy, and training decisions, and ultimately, service delivery to children with SLD.Subsequent to public release, the LDA sought to examine the arguments presented in IDEIA and the Final Regulations. The LDA Public Policy/Advocacy Committee solicited a number of professionals to examine the evidence that supported or refuted the information presented in the law and commentary. This LDA effort resulted in an LDA White Paper Survey of experts in the field, which in turn led to the production of this White Paper.This White Paper presents the expert professional opinions and empirical evidence regarding the identification of children with SLD and best practices in SLD service delivery. The preliminary findings of the LDA Expert Panel Survey (see Appendix A) and this White Paper represent the opinions and empirical evidence presented by 56 university professors and researchers, special education administrators, and special education lawyers with expertise in and public recognition for their work in SLD identification and intervention.All Expert Panel participants have published extensively in SLD, cognitive/neuropsychological assessment of high incidence disorders including SLD, and/or SLD educational intervention, in peer-reviewed journals, peer reviewed scholarly books, and/or argued legal cases in court proceedings. Individual curricula vitae are available upon request. However, it is important to recognize this was not a random sample of potential experts, but rather a survey of those individuals who have been recognized by their peers as SLD scholars with legitimate professional investments in the law and practice concerning SLD identification and intervention.This White Paper provides a summary of these Expert Panel White Paper Survey opinions, with relevant, but not exhaustive citations (provided as endnotes) that provide support for these conclusions. The five major conclusions drawn from these opinions and empirical evidence include the following:Maintain the SLD definition and strengthen statutory requirements in SLD identification procedures;Neither ability-achievement discrepancy analyses nor failure to respond to intervention (RTI) alone is sufficient for SLD identification;To meet SLD statutory and regulatory requirements, a third method approach that identifies a pattern of psychological processing strengths and deficits, and achievement deficits consistent with this pattern of processing deficits, makes the most empirical and clinical sense;An empirically validated RTI model could be used to prevent learning problems in children, but comprehensive evaluations should occur whenever necessary for SLD identification purposes, and children with SLD need individualized interventions based on specific learning needs, not merely more intense interventions designed for children in general education; andAssessment of cognitive and neuropsychological processes should be used not only for identification, but for intervention purposes as well, and these assessment-intervention relationships need further empirical investigation.