Impact of different definitions of learning disabilities on the number of students identified

Susan Epps, James E. Ysseldyke, Bob Algozzine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Despite many proposed definitions of learning disabilities and efforts to operationalize these definitions, there continues to be little agreement on either the definition of learning disabilities or the criteria that should be used to identify learning-disabled (LD) students. The number of students identified by each of 14 operational definitions that were based on either ability-achievement discrepancies, low achievement, or scatter were examined. The relationship between each definition and actual school classification was also examined. Subjects were 48 school-identified LD children and 96 non-LD children; all had previously been administered a battery of psychoeducational tests. Classification of each child as LD or non-LD according to each of 14 operational definitions indicated that different definitions identify significantly different numbers of students. The three categories of definitions did not discriminate LD and non-LD children consistently. Within the limitations of the present study, the prognosis is for continued confusion in the field of learning disabilities. Implications and recommendations for the educational system are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-352
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychoeducational Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1983

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