Cognitive and psychosocial characteristics of gifted students with written language disability.

Assouline, S. Foley Nicpon, M., & Whiteman, C. (2010). Cognitive and psychosocial characteristics of gifted students with written language disability. Gifted Child Quarterly, 54(2), 102-115.


I found the large percentage of students served under IDEA (individuals with disabilities education act) in 2001 to be interesting. From Table 1 below, students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) took up almost 50 percent of all students served under IDEA and represented six percent of the United States student population. This is followed by students served under speech or language impairments at almost nineteen percent. Students served through an Autism diagnosis made up less than two percent of the IDEA population. Looking up more recent IDEA statistics, I came across the 2017-2018 statistics for the IDEA population through the National Center for Educational Statistics website.

Figure 1 below is included in this post for easy viewing. From figure 1, in 2017-2018, SLD students now represent 34 percent of the IDEA population, followed by a stable number of speech or language impairments at 19 percent. The third highest category is now “other health impairment” at 14 percent. Autism is now at 10 percent, an almost fivefold increase between 2001 and 2018. Developmental delay is another category that seems to have increased dramatically in that time period. Total students serviced have increased from almost six million to seven million, while the total percentage of IDEA students remains fairly stable from about 12 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2018.  Such trends over time can be helpful as we consider identification and prevalence. For example, is it possible for SLD students to have decreased over time, or are they now becoming less identified and/or serviced under IDEA with the option of moving towards alternative ways of identifying SLD such as response to intervention (RTI)? Has the prevalence of autism increased more than fivefold or are more students being identified due to changes in assessment tools or changes in diagnostic criteria? 

The second item I found particularly useful from reading the Assouline et. al (2010) article was the applicability of using case study examples in conjunction with empirical findings, especially with the twice-exceptional (2e) population.  The specific profiles of ability-achievement discrepancies of individuals often will end up presenting the same average ability and achievement scores. However, the specific profiles of discrepancies often require different programming in order for the student to flourish. Andy’s story used in their paper served to paint a fuller snapshot picture of what 2E students might be going through in cross-sectional time and overtime. I would use this method in particular to highlight a few case studies of students with similar average scores but with different ability and achievement profiles to illustrate the need for individualized considerations and then applicable programming can be utilized. 

Another thing that stood out is the clustering of various SLD under one grouping. I suspect that programming varies between verbal, non-verbal, computational versus fluency discrepancies. With SLD students served under IDEA ranging between one third to almost half of all eligible students, it is important to use current research findings to write a grant that will allow recruitment of large numbers of subjects in order to have enough subjects to see if there are any meaningful patterns for specific SLD.  

Last but not least, the confusing varying standards between federal, state definitions of IDEA versus clinical/medical definitions of LD, may unfairly impact 2e students whereby they have to wait till they demonstrate academic or behavior failures at school before they may qualify for any accommodation and programming. The confusing “paradox” between the large discrepancies uncovered through clinical diagnostic assessments and the lag time for learning difficulties to surface in a school setting where grades are below average enough to warrant concern or intervention is very troubling to me.

In my son’s case, he had more than 75 points discrepancy in his WISC IV verbal and processing speed,  uneven performance within WJ III and WIAT-III, and especially a large discrepancy between ability and achievement uncovered in a psychoeducational assessment in 2nd grade. My son has yet to “manifest” difficulties that warranted inclusion for services in school academics by 5th grade when we pulled him out to attend private school. His school grades were still in the top 25th percentile at 5th grade. Although he was academically okay, his social-emotional and sense of self was already in great pain, something often overlooked by schools and parents.

However, I can anticipate increasing academic challenges at the end of middle school or in high school, if he was not given the tools to transition from using his intellect to compensate for his deficits to learning more long term sustainable “soft” skills such as using technology, organizational skills, help to ask skills, self-awareness and socio-emotional training.


National Center for Educational Statistics (2019, May).  The condition of education: children and youth With disabilities. Retrieved from

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