Specific Learning Disability Determination

What is a Specific Learning Disability (SLD)?

A Specific Learning Disability is “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia that adversely affects a student’s educational performance. A SLD does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.” (34 CFR §300.8(c)(10)).

How is a Specific Learning Disability determined?

In Zeeland Public Schools, a Pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses (PSW) process is used to identify a Specific Learning Disability in students. This process is used across all areas of SLD, which include: Oral Expression, Listening Comprehension, Written Expression, Basic Reading, Reading Comprehension, Oral Reading Fluency, Math Calculation, and Math Problem Solving. A Pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses process involves the collection of data to determine the following:

  • The student does not achieve adequately for the student’s age or to meet State approved grade-level standards in one or more of the areas identified at 34 CFR §300.309(a)(1)(i) when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the student’s age or State-approved grade-level standards.
  • The student exhibits a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in performance, achievement, or both, relative to age, State-approved grade-level standards, or intellectual development, that is determined by the Multi-disciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) to be relevant to the identification of a SLD, using appropriate assessments, consistent with the IDEA evaluation procedures.

Source: Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services (2010). Michigan criteria for determining the existence of a specific learning disability. Lansing, MI