Date of Conferral







Kathyrne Mueller


Many studies have investigated problems with the ability achievement discrepancy (AAD) method of diagnosing specific learning disabilities (SLDs). The definition of an SLD includes the presence of a deficit in one or more cognitive processing systems. Researchers in other studies found that the AAD method overdiagnoses English language learners and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and underdiagnoses students with cognitive processing deficits. Although SLD diagnostic methods have been widely researched, much less information is available regarding SLD diagnostic methods that predict important student outcomes, such as high school completion. The General Abilities Index (GAI) is an SLD diagnostic method that can identify cognitive processing deficits. This study examined the relationships between cognitive processing deficits and the GAI method, high school completion status, performance on state standards assessments, and SLD eligibility. Using a multivariate, nonexperimental design, this study analyzed 149 datasets from records of students tested for an SLD between 1996 to 2013. A GLM analysis found that several types of cognitive processing deficits predicted math and writing performance on the state standards assessment and predicted not being diagnosed with an SLD, while the GAI method failed to predict any relationship with the dependent variables. Positive social changes from this study may include improved SLD diagnostic practices and improved educational interventions that target the cognitive processing deficits. Improved educational outcomes for SLD persons may reduce the high rates of unemployment, substance abuse, and incarceration experienced by the adult SLD population.