PSYCH312 Study Guide - Final Guide: Brainstem, Sight-Reading, Knowledge Base
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According to the National Advisory Board on Handicapped Children, a learning disability is a dysfunction
in one or more of the physiological processes involved in using or listening to written or spoken word.
These disorders can be in reading, writing, speaking, listening, or arithmetic skills. The National Joint
Committee on Learning Disabilities states that a learning disability is a generic term referring to a
heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of
listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematical skills. It is presumed that these issues
are due to a dysfunction with the central nervous system, and that they are intrinsic to the individual.
Public Law 94-142
The law stipulated that for a child to be considered learning-disabled they have to meet certain criteria.
The first of these criteria was that the child did not achieve in school to the ability he or she should
depending on their age and ability when provided with normal learning experiences. The second criteria
was that there was a severe discrepancy between aptitude and achievement in one or more of these
areas: oral communication, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading
comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning.
AE and GE Scores
Age-equivalent and grade-equivalent scores indicate the level of growth or development a child has
reached, using prior knowledge of what is typical at certain ages or grades. Tests are given to large
representative samples whose scores provide standards or norms for aptitude or achievement to which
everyone else is compared. Age- and grade-equivalent scores are ordinal scores; that is, they tell us how
an individual does in comparison to others, but not how much better or worse someone is. Thus, it is
not possible to determine how severe a discrepancy may be.
Percentile ranks indicate the percentage of the normative or standardization group that is below an
individual’s percentile rank score. An individual’s score is the percent of average individuals the person
is better than in that test area. Percentile ranks are ordinal scores; that is, they tell us how an individual
does in comparison to others, but not how much better or worse. Thus, it is not possible to determine
how severe a discrepancy may be with percentile ranks.
Standard scores indicate the number of standard units above or below the mean that an individual’s
score is. These use the standard deviation of the score distribution around the mean to show how far
an individual’s score differs from the mean. Scores can be reported in terms of the number of standard
deviation from the mean, or in Z-scores. To eliminate negative numbers, most tests use scores with
means of 100 and standard deviations of 15. Standard scores give us the advantage of telling us how
much better or worse one score is than another.
Severe Discrepancy between Aptitude and Achievement
Most jurisdictions prefer to use standard scores in computing aptitude-achievement discrepancies and
use a difference of two standard deviations between aptitude and achievement as indicating the
presence of a severe discrepancy. If a child received a standard score of 110 on an aptitude test, he or
she would have to earn a standard score of 80 or less on an achievement test for the difference to
qualify as a severe discrepancy.
Reliability of Difference Scores
For each test score, there is a reliability associated with it. By subtracting one score from the other the
reliability of difference scores can be computed. This score is considerably less than the reliability of
individual scores. The higher the correlation between aptitude and achievement, the lower the
reliability of difference between them. For aptitude-achievement difference scores to be meaningful,
aptitude scores must predict achievement scores, and test constructors must strive for almost error-free
measurement. Both scores must have high test-retest reliability but a low correlation between them,
and the reliability of difference between aptitude and achievement is less than the reliability of the
individual test scores. The reliability of difference of 0.60 is considerably lower than what is considered
IDEA 2004, 2006
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) states that while a severe
discrepancy between aptitude and achievement could be included as evidence for a learning disability,
identification of a learning disability must not require a demonstration of severe discrepancy between
aptitude and achievement.
Response to Intervention (RTI)
Response to intervention is a prevention model to limit or prevent academic failure by providing
“evidence-based teaching procedures” for all students in general education. Tier 1 is high-quality
instruction in general education and monitoring of student progress, which includes 80% of students.
Tier 2 is more intensive evidence-based instruction while progress monitoring continues, which includes
10-15% of students. Tier 3 is highly intensive, evidence-based interventions taught in small groups or
individually while continuing progress monitoring, which includes 5-10% of students. Benefits of
response to intervention technique are that it focuses on earlier identification and prevention of
disabilities and it promotes shared responsibility and collaboration.
LDAO Definition of Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities are a variety of disorders that affect the acquisition, retention, understanding,
organization, or use of verbal and/or non-verbal information. These disorders result from impairments
in one or more psychological processes related to learning, in combination with otherwise average
abilities essential for thinking and reasoning. Learning disabilities are specific impairments and are thus
distinct from intellectual disabilities, which are global. Learning disabilities range in severity and
invariably interfere with the acquisition and use of one or more important skills, such as oral language,
reading, writing, and mathematics. The Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO) focuses on
impairments in psychological processes related to learning in combination with otherwise average
thinking or reasoning skills, unexpected low academic achievement, and average achievement attained
by a child at the expense of unrealistically high levels of effort or intensive educational support.
Test assumptions include assumptions that: the tester is adequately trained, the sample of behaviour
elicited in the test situation is adequate in amount and representative of the domain being sample, the
client has been exposed to comparable culture, error will be present in any measurement obtained, and
only present behaviour is observed and future behaviour can only be inferred.
Test-Retest Consistency Reliability
Test-retest consistency refers to stability in scores over time, and is determined by giving the test to a
large group of individuals, then giving them the test again at a later time. If an individual receives similar
scores on the test on 2 separate occasions, the test is consistent. Results are expressed as a reliability
coefficient, from -1 to 1, and tests with a coefficient of 0.80 or higher are acceptable.
Internal Consistency Reliability
Internal consistency is the extent to which items on a test assess the same thing. If items on a test
measure different things, the test has low internal consistency. By correlating each item on the test
with responses to other items in the test, we get a correlation, and a correlation of 0.90 or higher is
Validity is the extent to which a test measures what it is supposed to measure. It is difficult to
determine the validity of an intelligence test. The validity of intelligence tests is often determined by
how well they predict performance on achievement tests. This is determined by computing a
correlation coefficient between aptitude and achievement tests. Correlations between 0.4 and 0.6 are
considered to by significant.
Norms are the standards of comparison. A test is given to a large group of people, called the
standardization group, and scores made by people in this group are called test norms. Other people
who take the test are then compared to these test norms. It is difficult to compare the scores children
get on two tests that are normed on different samples of children, and very few published standardized
tests are normed on the same population.
Executive functions are the ability to control and direct one’s own learning. Planning, organizing,
monitoring activities, inhibiting responses, and attending to tasks at hand are all examples of executive
functions. Executive control directs flow of thinking, manages the cognitive processes during learning,
and keeps track of what information is being processed.
Time sampling techniques or running behaviour commentaries can provide data that speak to executive
Engaging a child to think aloud as he or she engages in tasks can provide rich sources of data that can
speak to the integrity of executive functions.
A standardized sample is a sample of peers of the same age group, with similar ethnicity, and balanced
in terms of parental education and geographical region, to which other children are compared. The
scores of the standardized sample provide norms to which other children are compared.
WISC-IV Composite Scores/Individual Subtests
Composite scores and the full-scale IQ are standardized scores with a mean of 100 and standard
deviation of 15. While the average scale for each subtest is 10, it is more reasonable to think of subtest
scores falling in an average range of scale scores between 7-13. Verbal comprehension includes
similarities, vocabulary, comprehension, and information. Perceptual reasoning includes block design,
picture concepts, matrix reasoning, and picture completion. Working memory includes digit span,
letter-number sequencing, and arithmetic. Processing speed includes coding, symbol search, and
Perceptual Organizational Skills (WISC-III)
The perceptual organizational skills measures visual-spatial organization and visual-motor skills within a
time limit, including mazes, picture arrangement, and object assembly. All three tasks focus on global
visual characteristics and require general interpretive perceptual skills. Block design and matrix
reasoning involve interpreting abstract designs that have to be constructed or completed using pieces
that are meaningless by themselves.