Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Courtenay A. Barrett


Courtenay A. Barrett


Gretchen Peacock


Donna Gilbertson


Students with specific learning disabilities (SLDs) currently make up approximately 40% of students receiving special education. The definition of SLD has not changed since the original special education law was implemented in 1975. Even with the recent changes to special education law in 2004, the definition stayed the same. Some professionals believe this lack of change reveals consistency while other scholars believe this lack of change reveals a lack of knowledge about what SLDs really are. The definition of SLD gives little insight regarding the etiology of the disorder. There are three prominent theories regarding the cause of SLDs: (a) environmental theory, (b) biological theory, and (c) interactional theory. Because these theories are oriented to different perspectives they also align with different methods of identification. IDEA (2004) outlines three SLD identification procedures: (a) the IQ-Achievement discrepancy method, (b) the response-to-intervention method, and (c) alternative research based procedures (PSW). School psychologists are one member of a multidisciplinary team aimed toward identifying children with disabilities, including SLDs, and providing remediation to them. School psychologists are estimated to spend nearly half their time in special education decision making and thus a large portion of their time is spent identifying students in need of special education services. Therefore, it is important to understand school psychologists’ perspectives regarding the SLD construct and identification. Current research is scant regarding school psychologists’ beliefs about the cause of SLDs and how these beliefs impact practice, including identification and job satisfaction. This article first addresses the construct and definition of SLD, followed by literature surrounding SLD identification and the school psychologist’s role in SLD identification. Finally, the conclusion of this article addresses future research regarding SLDs and possible research directions regarding the topics addressed in this article.

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Psychology Commons