What Is Specific Learning Disability (SLD)?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines SLD as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or perform mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, cognitive disabilities, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”
This general definition of SLD has been part of federal special education regulation since 1977 and is mirrored in Wisconsin rules at Wis. Admin. Code, § PI 11.06. LEAs (local education agencies) use criteria to determine whether a student has the impairment of SLD. The diagnostic labels listed in the general definition include those historically used to describe conditions similar to the educational definition of SLD. Many of these terms are no longer used. Students with non-educational diagnoses, such as those listed, may be considered for eligibility under IDEA but must meet Wisconsin eligibility criteria for the “impairment” of SLD (or another impairment) and demonstrate a “need for special education” as a result of that impairment prior to being identified as a student with a disability (Source: WI Department of Public Instruction FAQ).
On November 4, 2013, the state of Wisconsin changed the eligibility criteria for SLD requiring districts to use data from RtI to determine a student's eligibility for SLD. TWO scientific research-based interventions (SRBIs) must be done for each area of academic concern with the student. An SRBI is an intervention in which the effects have been studied and found to be successful; it provides a substantial number of instructional minutes beyond what is provided to all students and must be implemented with fidelity, which means it must be applied in a manner highly consistent with its design and implemented at least 80% of the recommended number of minutes, weeks, and sessions. Once a student receives two SRBIs in each area of academic concern, the following three criteria are considered:
Was there inadequate classroom achievement (academic skills are 1.25 standard deviation below mean — standard score of 81 or below)?
Insufficient progress (students progress is same or less compared to same-age peers, or the progress is greater but won't reach average within a reasonable amount of time, or progress is greater but the intensity of resources necessary to obtain this rate of progress cannot be maintained in regular education)
May not identify a student if achievement or progress is primarily due to exclusionary factors (environmental or economic disadvantage, cultural factors, lack of appropriate instruction, limited English proficiency, or other impairments)