What are the diagnostic criteria for a learning disability?

In reviewing diagnostic documentation for specific learning disabilities, the Disability Resources and Educational Services considers four diagnostic criteria which were derived from the definition of the National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities (see question 1). These four criteria are:

  1. Exclusionary Condition. The specific learning problem is the result of a presumed central nervous system dysfunction which does not primarily result from a sensory disability such as visual, auditory, or tactile loss or impairment; other neurological trauma or condition; a psychiatric condition; or the consequences of an impoverished or disadvantaged environment.

  2. Cognitive Potential. The range of intellectual function is an IQ of 85 and above on either the Verbal, Performance or Full Scale IQ score as measured on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R).

  3. Potential vs. Performance Discrepancies. Two types of discrepancies are used in these evaluations: aptitude-achievement and intra-achievement. An aptitude-achievement discrepancy reflects the amount of disparity between certain intellectual capabilities of an individual and his or her actual academic performance. An intra-achievement discrepancy is present within individuals who have specific achievement deficits, such as inadequate reading comprehension or spelling skills.

  4. Chronicity. The problems must have existed throughout the developmental stages of learning.

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