Publication Date

Summer 2015

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Carl Myers (Director), Elizabeth Jones, and Sally Kuhlenschmidt

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Specialist in Education


The definition of specific learning disabilities (SLD) and the methods used to identify SLD have been evolving since the 1970s. There have been five studies since 1970 that have focused on the SLD definition that states used and the SLD identification methods. The purpose of this study was to obtain updated information regarding the current prevalence rates of SLD, current SLD definitions, and current methods being used for the identification of SLD across the United States. After examining the regulations and procedures of each state, this study found that all fifty states have adopted the federal definition of SLD that was provided in IDEA 2004. As specified in that definition, all 50 states now allow the response to intervention model as a method for identifying SLD. Eleven states solely use the response to intervention model while the rest allow other methods of identifying SLD, specifically the severe discrepancy model or the pattern of strengths and weaknesses model. Overall, there has been a slight, but statistically significant decrease in the SLD prevalence rates since the response to intervention model has been in place.