Title: Underachieving children
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00103069/00001
 Material Information
Title: Underachieving children an analysis of psychometric characteristics of emotionally handicapped, learning disabled, and non-referred underachieving children
Physical Description: ix, 105 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Renuart, Janet Andree, 1945-
Publication Date: 1986
Subjects / Keywords: Underachievers   ( lcsh )
Learning ability -- Psychological aspects   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1986.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 96-103).
Statement of Responsibility: by Janet Andree Renuart.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00103069
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000893985
notis - AEK2512
oclc - 15311542

Full Text







Copyright 1986

Janet Andree Ranuart


Without the encouragement and support of my friends

and committee this study would never have been completed.

I wish to thank them for having faith in me and for giving

so freely of their time, ideas, and advice. Dr. Janet

Larsen and Dr. Robert Drummond both deserve special

mention for their generous sharing of their knowledge.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...................................

LIST OF TABLES ....................................



I. INTRODUCTION ..............................

Historical Perspective ......
Current Issues .......... ..
Theoretical Framework .......
Problem Statement ...........
Needs Statement .............
Purpose .....................
Research Questions ..........
Definition of Terms .........
Overview ....................

. ........ .

..... . .. .
.. ........
. oo 00o&0 oa
. . ..o.. .o


Introduction ...............
Definitions .. .... ........


Definitions of Learning Disabilities
Definitions of Emotional Handicapped
Prevalence .............. ..........
Characteristics ........................
Learning Disabled Children .........
Emotionally Handicapped Children....
Comparison .........................
Criteria for Identification .............
Identification Problems ...............
Referral ...........................
Bias ...............................
Differential Diagnosis .............
Support for the Study ...................
Professional Practice ..............
Categorical Classification .........





Instrumentation ...................... ...
Intelligence Measure ...............
Achievement Measures ...............

Process/ Emotionality Measure
Behavioral Checklist ........

III. METHODOLOGY.............
Overview .............
Variables ............
Sample ...............
Procedures ............
Research Participants
Analysis .............

IV. ANALYSIS OF RESULTS.....................

Research Question 1 ..
Research Question 2
Research Question 3
Research Question 4
Research Question 5...

V. CONCLUSIONS ..........

Summary ...............
Problem ..........





C. LONSENT FORMS ... .............. ........... 88

D. CHILD'S CONSENT FORM .................... 91

E. BEHAVIORAL CHECKLIST ......... ........... 92


REFERENCES ....... ... .. ...... .......... .......... 96

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............ ............... 104






0oo0o 0
0 0o.. .o







1. Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development ......10

2. Educational Implications of Erikson's Stage Theory 12

3. Prevalence of Learning Disabilities ...............27

4. Average Percentage of Students Served in Classes
for Learning Disabled and Emotionally
Handicapped .................................... 28

5. Constructional Data ............................... 59

6. Sample Distribution ............................ 64

7. Summary Descriptive Statistics, ANOVA, and Scheffe
of Psychometric Data by Group ...................65

8. Summary of Significance Tests on Responses to
Behavioral Checklist............................. 66

Abstract of Disseration Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Janet Andree Renuart

August 1986

Chairperson: Janet 3. Larsen, EdD
Major Department: Counselor Education

The differential diagnosis of children for placement

in special education is the subject of considerable con-

troversy. The appropriateness of classifying mildly handi-

capped children in order to serve their educational needs,

as required by PL 94-142, has been questioned. The def-

inition, delineation of characteristics, research

practices, referral process, and effects of labeling are

issues related to the differential diagnosis of mildly

handicapped children. Researchers have reached different

conclusions, thus, educators do not know whether

psychometric and behavioral data from commonly used

assessment batteries can differentiate among emotionally


handicapped, learning disabled, and unlabeled underachiev-

ing children. In this investigation psychometric data were

collected on a sample of these children from Clay County,

Florida. Results indicate mildly handicapping conditions

can be operationally defined so that differential diagno-

sis is possible. Analysis of the data gives evidence that

learning disabled, emotionally handicapped, and under-

achieving children do demonstrate significant differences

on psychometric and behavioral measures.

The learning disabled children had significantly

higher verbal and full scale IQ scores than the emotional-

ly handicapped group, and demonstrated a significantly

greater variance between achievement and ability than

the emotionally handicapped and underachieving groups.

The underachievers scored significantly higher in reading

than did the other children. Of particular interest was

the similarity of the underachievers to the emotionally

handicapped group on measures of emotional status. Both

these groups showed a significantly greater number of

emotional indicators on the Bender-Gestalt than did the

learning disabled children. Behavior ratings by teachers

revealed that the emotionally handicapped children had the

most behavioral problems. The underachieving group was

rated the same as the emotionally handicapped group on

three of six categories of behavioral problems. The

learning disabled children were rated as having few


behavioral problems. There were no differences between

the groups in visual-motor integration, or in teachers'

rating of students' process or memory problems. Implica-

tions of the results are discussed.



Historical Perspective

Special education originally began as a means to

serve children unable to function in regular classrooms.

These children generally had physical, mental, or emotion-

al problems of significant severity. However, in the 1950s

and 1960s there was a rapid expansion of programs designed

to meet the needs of narrowly defined categories of child-

ren with mild problems. This led to the practice of

addressing the problems of low achievement and mild

social/emotional difficulties by categorizing children,

and placing them in "set aside" programs (Ysseldyke,

Reynolds, & Weinberg, 1984). In the 1970's questions were

raised as to the educational values (Lilly, 1977) and

social desirability of segregrated programs (Trippe &

Mathey, 1982). A growing number of educators were

advocating a movement toward non-categorical special

education; however, these efforts were slowed by a series

of court decisions that led to the enactment of PL 94-142,

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Lilly,



The passage of PL 94-142 guaranteed a free and

appropriate education to all children, but required the

labeling of pupils as handicapped to secure this right

(Trippe & Mathey, 1982). Thus, as discussed by Algozzine

and Korinek (1985), 11% of the school-age population has

been classified as handicapped in order to receive

services. More than 90% of the classified pupils belong

to one of four categories for the mildly handicapped;

speech impaired, learning disabled, mentally retarded, and

emotionally disturbed (Algozzine & Korinek, 1985; Trippe &

Mathey, 1982). Children are placed in these high

incidence categories primarily by using psychometric

results rather than medical/physical qualifications.

Definite trends have evolved in the classification

of children since the passage of PL 94-142. Algozzine and

Korinek (1985) presented data which indicated wide

variability among school districts, but which consistently

gave evidence of increases in the numbers of students

classified as learning disabled, while the number of

students classified as mentally retarded and speech

impaired decreased. The numbers of students categorized

as emotionally handicapped appeared to be remaining



Current Issues

The appropriateness of continuing to classify mildly

handicapped children in order to serve their educational

needs continues to receive attention in the literature

(Astman, 1984; Stainback & Stainback, 1984; Trippe &

Mathey, 1982; Ysseldyke, 1983; Ysseldyke & Algozzine,

1982; Ysseldyke et al., 1984). As Trippe and Mathey

(1982) stated, "there is no question that, for the

extremes, accommodation in the regular classroom would be

most difficult or impossible "(p.4). However, 90% of the

children who receive special education are there because

their disabilities are related to school expectations of

learning and behavior.

This practice can lead to the logical fallacy of

affirming the consequence. Put another way, the reasoning

follows this logic as presented by Ysseldyke and

U~gozzine (1979): "If the statement (A) is true (the child

is learning disabled), then a certain result will be

observed (8) (the child will re/erse letters). Upon

assessment, B is observed, it is then concluded that A is

true" (p.4).

The logic is not faulty. The problem lies in the

fact that the first statement is not specific and

universal to any category of mildly handicapped children.

Speaking of learning disabled children Ysseldyke and

Algozzine (1979) stated, That is, it is not specified


that the characteristics appear in only and in all

learning disabled children; there are clearly other

reasons for the presence of the characteristics in

question" (p.4). The other reasons may be that the

child is mentally retarded, emotionally handicapped,

deprived, ill, or experiencing transitory emotional

stress. This line of logic continues to be used because it

serves to justify the subjectivity that enters the

decision-making process and is sometimes correct.

Studies have shown that the most important decision

in the process of labeling a child is referral

(Perlmutter & Parus, 1983; Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1979,

1983). Referrals are usually generated by the classroom

teacher who, in effect, controls which children are

evaluated for special programs. A summary of

characteristics that have been shown to influence referral

and subsequent placement decisions can be found in

Ysseldyke and Algozzine (1979). Trippe and Mathey (1982)

also discussed characteristics that result in referrals to

classes for the learning disabled, emotionally

handicapped, or mentally retarded. The bias caused by a

child's behavioral characteristics does not end with

referral, but is also in evidence at the level of

assessment and in the making of placement decisions

(Algozzine, Ysseldyke, Christenson, & Thurlow, 1983;


Frame, Clarizio, Porter, & Vensonhaler, 1982; Knoff, 1984;

Potter, Ysseldyke, Regan, & Algozzine, 1983).

The net effect of the present system is to blame the

child for the failure of the school to accommodate her

needs. The child is labeled for organizational, political,

and economic reasons. As Ysseldyke and Algozzine (1982)

pointed out, the labels of mentally retarded, learning

disabled, and emotionally disturbed are used to identify

children when we are not certain what these terms mean

and what those conditions are, and we have no idea of

what to do (with any degree of validity) when we find

them" (p. 234).

The Executive Board/Delegate Assembly of the Nation-

al Association of School Psychologists (NASP) passed a

position statement advocating appropriate educational

services for all children (Advocacy, 1985). The paper

addressed the multiple problems of access, including the

focus on labels for placement. Problems seen as arising

from the present classification system include (a)

labeling children who are low achievers as "handicapped"

to obtain needed services, (b) using labels that are

irrelevant to instruction, (c) applying arbitrarily de-

fined labels which may become accepted as "real" and

reduce meaningful intervention, and (d) decreasing the

willingness of regular education teachers to modify

curricula to meet the needs of all children.


The above statement was followed by a five-year plan

presenting priority areas for NASP (NASP, 1985). The

first priority discussed was the development of better

delivery systems to focus on instructional needs without

unnecessary assessment and labeling.

Two classifications are of particular concern:

learning disabled and emotionally handicapped. Consider-

able conceptual and definitional confusion is apparent in

the two fields (Adelman & Taylor, 1983; Apter & Conoley,

1984; Ysseldyke, Algozzine, Richey, & Graden, 1982).

Furthermore, substantial overlap between the criteria for

identification and the characteristics of children in both

categorities appears to exist (Apter & Conoley, 1984;

Jacobs, 1984; Trippe & Mathey, 1982). These two factors

have led to problems of differential diagnosis (Stainback

& Stainback, 1984; Trippe & Mathey, 1982; Ysseldyke &

Algozzine, 1982; Ysseldyke et al., 1984).

Authorities in the field of learning disabilities

have questioned the validity of learning disability as a

special education category (Algozzine & Ysseldyke, 1982)

by showing that learning disabled students cannot be

differentiated from underachievers (Ysseldyke, Algozzine,

Shinn, & McGue, 1982). Sherry (1982) studied learning

disabled, emotionally handicapped, and educable mentally

retarded students and suggested that they did not differ

in achievement, self-concept, and visual-motor measures,


noting also that limited empirical research has been

reported in the field.

Problems in research also confound the field

(Adelman & Taylor, 1983; Apter & Conoley, 1984; Lakin,

1982; Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1982). A set of

guidelines to assist researchers when describing learning

disabled samples was developed by the Council for Learning

Disabilities Research Committee (1984). It remains to be

seen how these guidelines will be followed. Similar

guidelines are also needed for researchers who study

samples of emotionally handicapped students.

Beyond the issues of definition, conceptualization,

and research, a need exists to show whether different

teaching methods have been proven exclusively effective

with any group of students (Apter & Conoley, 1984; Jacobs,

1984; Lerner, 1981; Morsink, 1985; Stainback & Stainback,

1984; Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1982; Ysseldyke, Thurlow,

Graden, Wesson, Algozzine, & Deno, 1979). Also, a need

exists to demonstrate whether different teacher competen-

cies are needed to teach these children (Apter, 1984;

Lakin, 1982; Morsink, 1985; Stainback & Stainback, 1984).

Knowledge about professional practices in research

and intervention will remain unclear until issues of

identification and definition are resolved. If there is

to be a research-based justification for the endeavor of

categorical education, researchers will need to be able to


rely on a system of differential diagnosis which allows

for consistent identification of children as learning

disabled, emotionally handicapped, or normal but

underachieving. As stated earlier, the categories of

learning disabled and emotionally handicapped are

classifications based primarily on psychometric results

(Algozzine & Korinek, 1985) and school-defined failure to

learn or behave as expected (Tripp & Mathey, 1982). This

study focused on the psychometric data and behavioral

observations used to identify and subsequently label

children as learning disabled, emotionally handicapped, or


Theoretical Framework

The theories concerning the nature of cognitive

abilities, thinking skills, and moral development are

critical to the understanding of learning disabilities,

emotional handicaps, and underachievement. Two interpreta-

tions of cognitive abilities, maturational theories and

theories of components of mental functioning, are often

employed to interpret learning problems (Lerner, 1981).

Psychodynamic, psychoeducational, behavior modification,

and ecological theories have been applied to the

understanding of emotional handicaps (Kirk & Gallagher,

1979). Moreover, reductionistic models (psychological-

process, behavioral, and cognitive-strategy) have been

employed to teach children with learning problems.


In contrast, the holistic method of viewing persons

suggests that all variables are seen and treated within

the context of all the interactions that form a particular

experience (Poplin, 1984). Holism challenges many of our

present assumptions about education. Other models reduce

learning to segments of a relatively small set of

experience, and have also narrowed our concept of

intelligence. The holistic model challenges us to view

the child from his perspective; to grow with the child.

Learning and emotional problems are explained as

interactions between the school, the family, the

individual, and society at large.

Too often special educators have failed to look at

the school setting, to the context within which learning

problems take on their meaning (Astman, 1984). Learning

disabilities, emotional handicaps, and underachievement do

not exist of themselves. They exist because the child is

judged against a standard or norm (Astman, 1984; Trippe &

Mathey, 1982).

Our decisions about a child's educational needs are

derived partly from che way we perceive children. We fail

to recognize that children are accomplished learners prior

to entering school. Upon their entrance to school we

restrain the very qualities that helped them learn about

the world (Neal, 1984). Erikson (1980) provided us with a


framework within which to understand the moral and

cognitive development of the human organism.

According to Erikson (1980) the healthy personality

develops as the person passes through an identifiable

series of psychosocial stages as listed in Table 1.

Table 1

Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development

Stage Psy. Crisis Qualities of Psy. Age
Strength Modalities

I Trust vs. Hope: belief that To get 0-1
mistrust wishes can be To give
II Autonomy Will: determination To hold on 2-3
vs. shame to exercise free To let go
or doubt choice and self
III Initiative Purpose: to envisage To "make 3-6
vs. guilt and pursue valued like"
goals. To make
IV Industry Competence: free use To make 7-12
vs. of skill and intell- things
inferiority igence in completing

V Identity Fidelity: substain To be 12-18
vs. freely pledged oneself
identity loyalties despite To share
diffusion contradicting being
value systems oneself

Note. Adapted from Thomas, 1985, pp. 238-239; 246-247.

Erikson proposed that these stages

genetically and occur regardless of

personality characteristics that the

display depend on the way he interacts



culture. The

child comes to

with the social


institutions within his environment. Growing up is the

achievement of ego identity which first involves knowing

and accepting one's self, and secondly, accepting the

group culture. The child who receives healthy nurturance

will develop the human virtues of hope, will, purpose, and

competence. The teen years will see the growth of

fidelity. Love, care, and wisdom are considered the

outcomes of maturity.

As illustrated in Table 1, each stage of

development is characterized by psychosocial modalities

that faciliate the development of positive values.

Unsolved psychosocial crisis can result in unhealthy

emotional adjustment. According to Erikson (1980)

influences at each stage are permanent but not

unalterable. Earlier negative experiences may not be

completely undone, but can be ameliorated by later

positive experience. Thus, the social and educational

environment play a significant part in the development of

emotionally healthy persons who are able to strive toward

their potential.

Perhaps, viewing children through Erikson's theory

will also temper how we view labeling children and placing

them in set aside programs. Biehler (1978) discussed

educational implications for Erikson's psychosocial stages

beginning with preschoolers and going through secondary

school years, as listed in Table 2. The implications of

Eirkson's theory when applied to teaching fit within a

holistic view of education.

Table 2

Educational Implications of Erikson's Stage Theory








Give freedom with guidance,
Allow the child to do things but reduce
the possibility that weakness will be
exposed, or that she will develop doubts
about her capabilities.
Allow self-initiated activity.
Allow tasks for the sake of being active.
Avoid comparisons of relative ability.
Urge child to improve performance.
Play down comparisons.
Reduce completion against peers.
Provide tasks that allow the child to
meet success.
Stress individual mastery.
Allow pupil to proceed at own rate.
Give remedial instruction as soon as
difficulties are encountered.
Develop identity and acceptance of one's
Develop inner assuredness.
Urge formulation of goals.
Recognize possible psychosocial

within Eirkson's framework the holistic

educator can respect the child's capacities, and trust the

child to use his own formative powers. Educators, by

promoting positive qualities and providing opportunities

for children to use appropriate psychosocial models,

can make a difference in the child's life.

the implications of Erikson's


theory to



education underlines the need to accept children as they

are and then to provide an environment that stimulates

positive growth.

Problem Statement

At the present time there are no universally

accepted criteria to diagnose children as learning

disabled or emotionally handicapped. Thus, the basic

problem is that educators really do not know if currently

used psychometric data from commonly used batteries can

differentiate among learning disabled, emotionally handi-

capped, and unlabled underachieving children. The

placement of children into special education programs for

the mildly handicapped is capricious at best (Algozzine &

Ysseldyke, 1983). Placement is often dependent on

referral, and referral is often the result of biased

selection by teachers (Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1983).

Studies undertaken by Ysseldyke, Algozzine, Shinn,

and McGue (1982) have shown that learning disabled

children cannot be differentiated from underachievers.

Sherry (1982) found that although learning disabled,

emotionally handicapped, and mentally retarded children

did not differ in intellectual, achievement, and visual-

motor measures, at-risk (Chapter 1 students) and normal

children in regular classes generally yielded higher

scores on all psychometric data. Behavioral data did not

show any significant differences among the groups in


Sherry's study (1982). As he discussed, limited empirical

research exists in the field.

Needs Statement

If educators are to continue serving mildly

handicapped children in categorical special education

classes we need to be able to differentiate among the

various categories (Trippe & Mathey, 1982). If indeed,

psychometric data do differentiate between learning

disabled and emotionally handicapped children, educators

have valid grounds for continuing the practice of

collecting such data. If learning disabled and/or

emotionally handicapped children are found to be

statistically different from unreferred underachievers,

present assessment measures may be valid. On the other

hand, if data show that unreferred underachievers are

statistically like learning disabled and/or emotionally

handicapped children, new methods of referral need to be

devised so that all children who deserve special education

can receive services.

Another possibility exists. It may be that all three

classifications are statistically alike. If such is the

case a number of issues become important. Better means of

differential diagnosis need to be researched. School

psychologists should be trained to use combinations of

assessment tools that provide adequate information for

placement. Criteria for placement may need to be


revisited. The practice of categorical placement may

require further study, and changes in teacher training and

certification may be necessary.


The purpose of this investigation was to provide

psychometric data regarding children selected from three

special categories of placement. The study was designed to

show if significant differences existed among the mean

scores of the groups of children for each measure;

intelligence, achievement, visual-motor integration,

behavior, and emotional indicators. Furthermore, this

study was designed to determine the validity of continuing

to use present referral and evaluation methods as the

determining factors in the placement of children in

categorical programs for the mildly handicapped.

Research Questions

1. Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled,

and underachieving children be differentiated

based on reading or math scores obtained from

the Wide Range Achievement Test or Woodcock

Johnson Tests of Achievement?

2. Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled,

and underachieving children be differentiated

based on verbal, performance, or full scale

scores from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for



3. Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled,

and underachieving children be differentiated

based on age equivalent scores or number of

emotional indicators from the Bender-Gestalt?

4. Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled,

and underachieving children be differentiated

based on a teacher-completed behavioral check-


5. Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled,

and underachieving children be differentiated

based on the amount of variance between their

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Re-

vised scores and their achievement scores?

Definition of Terms

Achievement: The ability to do math problems or read as

measured by the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT)

or Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJTA).

Category/classification: Term used to identify a

specific type of handicapped child. The field of

special education includes a collection of

categories of special children (Lerner,1981).

Chapter I: A federally funded program designed to serve

underachieving children. A school becomes eligible

for funds based on the number of children enrolled

who are eligible to receive free or reduced cost


or reduced cost lunches. Any child in the school

who is identified as an underachiever may be in the


Emotionally handicapped/emotionally disturbed/behavior

disordered: The term refers to children exhibiting

one or more of the following characteristics over a

long period of time and to a marked degree, which

adversely affects educational performance: (a) an

inability to learn which cannot be explained by

intellectual, sensory, or health factors; (b) an

inability to build or maintain satisfactory

interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;

(c) inappropriate types of behavior or feelings

under normal circumstances; (d) a general pervasive

mood of unhappiness or depression; or (e) a tendency

to develop physical symptoms or fears associated

with personal or school problems, The term includes

children who are schizophrenic. The term does not

include children who are socially maladjusted,

unless it is determined that they are seriously

emotionally disturbed. (Kirk & Gallagher, 1979)

Emotional indicators: Signs associated with certain

emotional states as measured by the Bender-Gestalt

using the Koppitz scoring system. Koppitz (1963a, b)

considers the following phenomenon on the test to be

indicative of emotional disturbance in children:

confused order, wavy line, dashes for circles, pro-

gressive increases in size, large size, small size,

fine line, overwork, second attempt, and expansion.

Handicapped child/exceptional child: The child who
deviates from the average or normal child in
mental characteristics, in sensory abilities, in
neuromotor or physical characteristics, in
social behavior, in communication abilities, or
in multiple handicaps. Such deviation must be of
such an extent that the child requires a
modification of school practices, or special
education services, to develop to maximum
capacity (Kirk & Gallagher, 1979, p. 3).

Intelligence: The capacity to use those abilities

defined as intelligence by the Wechsler Intelligence

Scale-Revised (WISC-R).

Learning Disabilities: There is not a universally

accepted definition of learning disabilities.

The most widely used operational definition is

that which is part of PL 94-142 and follows:

The child does not achieve commensurate
with his or her age and ability levels in
one or more of seven specific areas when
provided with learning experiences
appropriate for the child's age and ability
The team finds that a child has a
severe discrepancy between achievement and
intellectual ability in one or more of the
following areas:
a. Oral expression
b. Listening comprehension
c. Written expression
d. Basic reading skill
e. Reading comprehension
f. Mathematics calculation
g. Mathematics reasoning
The learning disabilities regulations also
specify that a team may not identify a
child as having a specific learning dis-


ability if the severe discrepancy between
ability and achievement is primarily the
result of (1) visual, hearing, or motor
handicaps, (2) mental retardation, (3)
emotional disturbance, or (4) environ-
mental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
(Lerner, 1981, p.7)

Team: The team consists of the following persons: the

local educational agency representive, the school

psychologist, a regular education teacher, a special

education teacher, and the parents/guardians of the

child. Social workers and medical personal may be

called in to join the team.

Underachiever: A child who scores in the 30th percentile

or. less on the Stanford Tests of Achievement in

reading and/or math, who has not been referred or

did not previously meet criteria for special

education and is not receiving services.

Visual-motor integration: The ability to coordinate

vision with the movements of the body or parts of

the body (Lerner, 1981) as measured by the Bender-

Gestalt using Koppitz's scoring system.


Chapter II presents a review of the literature

supporting the need, purpose, and instruments discussed

in this chapter. Chapter III discusses the methodology.

In chapter IV the analysis of data and an evaluation of

information are presented. The final chapter contains a

summary, limitations, conclusions, and recommendations.




A number of issues are important to the study of the

psychometric characteristics of underachieving children.

Conceptual and definitional confusion; criteria and

characteristic overlap; educational practice; bias in

referral, assessment, and placement; and problems with

inadequate research are points of current debate. Cur-

rent literature also has highlighted how these issues

relate to the appropriateness of categorical education and

prevalent professional practice. A review of the

literature will help illustrate the need and purpose of

this study.


The legal definitions of learning disabilities and

emotional handicaps were established by the passage of PL

94-142. These definitions can be found in Chapter I

(Definitions of Terms, pp. 16 18). However, a review of

the literatJre indicates that there is not professional

consensus as to what constitutes a learning disability

(Association for Children with Learning Disabilities,



1985; Adelman & Taylor, 1983; Algozzine & Ysseldyke, 1983;

Hammill, Leigh, McNutt, & Larsen, 1981; Lilly, 1977;

Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1982, 1983; Ysseldyke, Algozzine,

Richey, & Graden, 1982). The same is true for the field

of emotional handicaps, as a review by Apter and Conoley

(1984, pp. 12-37) illustrated. The definitions of these

categories are difficult to pinpoint and yet are central

to developing service delivery models; shaping

legislative, administrative, and advocacy decisions;

determining estimates for prevalence; and research

(Sherry, 1982; Trippe & Mathey, 1982).

Definitions of Learning Disabilities

The term learning disabilities became popular after

its introduction in 1963 by Samuel Kirk (Lerner, 1981).

However, one of the most frequently and consistently cited

criticisms of the field of learning disabilities has been

the lack of consensus among professionals on a definition

of the term. Lilly (1977) summarized studies that

described 22 separate terms used as synonyms for learning

disability, 38 definitions of learning disabilities, and

the failure to be able to differentiate children labeled

learning disabled from those who were not so labled.

Mercer, Hughes, & Mercer (1985) surveyed the

directors of special education in the 50 state departments

of education to accertain their definition of learning

disability, identification criteria, and operationaliza-

tion procedures. Their study revealed that 72% of the

states use a learning disabilities definition based on

the 1977 Federal Register definition, 24% use a different

definition, and 4% do not use any definition.

In 1981 the National Joint Committee for Learning

Disabilities (Leigh, 1983) met to develop a new

definition. They agreed that "a definition was basically

a theoretical statement specifying the delimiting

characteristics of conditions called learning

disabilities" (Hammill et al., 1981, p.338). Within this

frame of reference they developed a definition that

contains the following concepts:

1. Learning disabilities is a global term under

which a variety of disorders can be grouped.

2. Learning disabilities refers to a

heterogeneous group. That is, the disorders

grouped under learning disabilities are

specific and different in kind. It is implied

that specific causes of the disorders may be

many and dissimliar.

3. Learning disabilities handicap and seriously

limit the performance of some key ability; the

acquision and use of listening, speaking,

reading, writing, reasoning, or math skills.


4. The source of the disorder is to be found

within the person and is presumed to be caused

by neurological dysfunction.

5. Learning disabilities occur among all kinds of

people but are not the result of other

handicapping conditions.

This theoretical model has been accepted by the

Council of Learning Disabilities, the International

Reading Association, the Division for Children with

Communication Disorders, The Orton Dyslexia Society, and

the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. It was

not accepted by the Association for Children and Adults

with Learning Disabilities (Hammill et al., 1981). The

results of Mercer's study (1985) suggested that educators

are not adopting this newer definition.

The Association for Children with Learning

Disabilities' Board of Directors (ACLD, 1985) adopted a

definition of the condition, Specific Learning Disabili-

ties, on September 22, 1984, which follows:

Specific Learning Disabilities is a
chronic condition of presumed neurological
origin which selectively interferes with the
development, integration, and/or demonstra-
tion of verbal and/or non-verbal abilities.
Specific Learning Disabilities exists as
a distinct handicapping condition in the
presence of average to superior intelli-
gence, adequate sensory and motor systems,
and adequate learning opportunities. The
condition varies in its manifestions and in
degree of severity. Throughout life the
condition can affect self-esteem, education,

vocation, socialization, and/or daily living
activities. (p.l)

The task force took the approach of defining

learning disabilities within a broad, lifetime definition

in order to "transcend present, debated definitions"

(ACLD, 1985, p.l). The impact of their efforts is yet to

be felt.

Trippe and Mathey (1982) made an interesting point;

can anyone determine that the inability of a child to

learn is not associated with emotional disturbance? They

consider it pointless to ask if a particular child is

really learning disabled or emotionally handicapped and to

expect an accurate, reliable response based on available

clinical procedures and evaluation. Referring to the

definition of learning disabilities given in PL 94-142

they noted that in order to be considered learning

disabled, a child's learning problems must not be

emotionally based. However, they proceeded to say

Our view is that we are not so skilled at
ruling out emotional factors as we are at
simply deciding that child's problems are
not due to emotional problems. Another way
of saying this is that if a child is having
learning difficulties but seems bright, is
pleasant, adaptable, presentable, likeable,
and isn't troublesome, then the tendency
would be to favor his or her being learning
disabled rather than emotionally impaired.
Or if he or she is troublesome and still
likeable, then frustration over learning may
be used to justify the troublesome behavior
and still favor seeing him or her as learn-
ing disabled. (Trippe & Mathey, 1982, p.6)

Definitions of Emotionally Handicapped

Apter and Conoley (1984) provided a number of common

definitions used to describe emotionally handicapped

children. They also discussed several problems that edu-

cators face because of the array of definitions and

definitional issues. Apter and Conoley (1984) pointed out

that a child may be regarded as mentally ill by a psychi-

atrist, emotionally disturbed by a psychologist, and

behavior disordered by an educator.

The definition of emotionally handicapped that is

part of PL 94-142 (Chapter 1, Definition of Terms, p.16)

was based on a definition developed by Bower and Lambert

in 1971 which follows:

Emotional disturbance can be inferred from
individual behavior which is limited, inflexi-
ble, restricted, and endures over time
1. An inability to learn which cannot be
adequately explained by intellectual, sen-
sory, neurophysiological, or general
health factors;
2. an inability to build or maintain
satisfactory interpersonal relationships
with peers and teachers;
3. inappropriate or immature types of
behavior or feelings under normal condi-
4. a general pervasive mood of unhappi-
ness or depression;
5. a tendency to develop physical symptoms,
such as, speech problems, pains, or
fears, associated with personal or school
problems. (Bower & Lambert, 1980, p.99)

This definition has been used for over 20 years to

identify mildly disturbed children. However, PL 94-142


now uses this same definition for "seriously" disturbed

children. Grosenick and Huntze (1980) identified as a

concern this use of the word "seriously" and the lack of

clarity of what was meant by the term. Additionally, the

exclusion of "socially maladjusted" children while

including children unable to relate satisfactorily with

peers has raised unanswered questions (Kauffman, 1980).

Other issues that have delayed the universal

acceptance of a definition of emotional handicapped are

based on theorical perspectives. Arguments for

the label emotional disturbance versus behavior disorder

can be found (Hewett & Taylor, 1980). Newcomer (1980)

reviewed the deviance versus disability perspectives.

Apter and Conoley (1984) favored the ecological

perspective, arguing that other views made it easy to

label the child while ignoring needed changes in the

ecological systems surrounding the child.


Estimates of the prevalence of the number of

children who are mildly handicapped vary considerably.

Children who are labeled learning disabled or emotionally

handicapped have many traits in common. Moreover, for a

particular child, it is often difficult to determine what

constitutes the primary problem. Long, Morse, and Newman

(1980) reported, "it is our experience that approximately

40 percent of the pupils labeled emotionally handicapped


have underlying learning disabilities" (p. 280). These

variables, as well as the lack of agreement concerning

definitions and criteria for placement, influence

prevalence figures. Table 3 illustrates the wide variance

of prevalence estimates for learning disabilities, ranging

from the very conservative estimate made by the

National Advisory Committee of Handicapped Children to

Meier's rather high estimate.

Table 3

Prevalence of Learning Disabilities

Study Estimated Percentage

National Advisory Committee on
Handicapped Children (1968) 1-3%
Kass & Myklebust (1969) 3-5%
Meier (1971) 15%
Bryant (1972) 3-28%
Kirk & Elkins (1975) 2.5%

Source of data: Wallace & McLoughlin, 1979, p.13;
Lerner, 1981, p.16.

It very difficult to estimate the numbers of

emotionally handicapped children being served at any one

time, according to Apter and Conoley (1984). Caution must

be taken concerning the ambiguity in definition and

criteria. Estimates of the number of disturbed children

range from 2% to 30% (much like the figures for learning

disabilities). Translated into numbers of children that

means between one million and 15 million children. Using

tne conservative figure of 2%, Apter and Conley reported

tha; 1,026,340 children need special help because of their

emotional status. Yet only 0.5% of children in school

receive service for emotional disturbance (Kirk & Galla-

gher, 1979: Lerner, 1981; Long et al., 1980).

Algozinne and Korinek (1985) studied the numbers of

different types of handicapped students served since the

passage of PL 94-142. Of the total number of handicapped

students in the United States, the average percentages of

students served in classes for the learning disabled and

emotionally handicapped for the years 1978-1982 are pre-

sented in Table 4.

Table 4

Average Percentage of Students Served in Classes for
Learning Disabled and Emotionally Handicapped

School Years

Category 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982

Disabled 28.77 32.49 35.60 38.16 40.4
Handicapped 6.85 7.55 7.38 7.63 7.68

Data from Algozzine & Korinek, 1985.

Analysis of the data presented by Algozzine and

Korinek (1985) and illustrated in Table 4 reveals tiat

the number of learning disabled students served has

increased app omixately 3% per year since 1978 while the

number of emotionally handicapped has remained fairly

constant. Discussing the possible reasons for this, the

authors suggest "ineffective decision making, and


educational practice characterized by whim and chance"


Another way of viewing the problem of determining

learning disabilities and emotionally handicapped

prevalence was proposed by Adelman and Taylor (1983).

They hypothesized that instead of two separate populations

the diagnosed learning disabled and emotionally

handicapped populations should be seen as overlapping and

as consisting of a continuum encompassing three major

subgroups of youngsters with learning or behavior

problems, or both" (p. 42). Discussing prevalence they

suggested that the labels should apply only to severely

handicapped children and that this would mean

approximately 1% of the school-age population.

In summary, current prevalence estimates of both

learning disabled and emotionally handicapped children

fluctuate markedly. Agreement on prevalence figures will

not be reached until agreement regarding concept and

definition is achieved. Then we still have to contend

with overlap and misidentification. At the present time

it is difficult to determine the actual number of handi-

capped children within specific categories. Estimates are

higher than actual rates currently available (Ysseldyke,

Algozzine, & Richey, 1982).


Just as there is not one definition of learning

disabilities or emotional handicaps that satisfies all

involved parties, neither is there a list of

characteristics that is exclusive to either group of these

children. The nature of the children who are identified

and labeled according to classic special education

categories is as variable as the system itself (Furlong &

Yanagida, 1985; Mercer et al., 1985; Morrison, MacMillan,

& Kavale, 1985). As Trippe and Mathey (1982) discussed,

90% of the children in special education are considered

disabled because their learning and/or behavior does not

match school expections. Furthermore, to add to the

confusion most children manifest some of these

characteristics or behaviors to some degree at some time

(Adelman & Taylor, 1983).

Learning Disabled Children

Lerner (1981) wrote that learning disabled school-

age children are four to six times more likely to be male

than female. However, learning disabled children can be

found in towns and cities across the nation, among every

socioeconomic level, and in large and small school dis-

tricts (Cruichshank, 1981; Lerner, 1981). Among the

characteristics said to be related to learning disabili-

ties are hyperactivity or selective attention deficits,

perceptual-motor impairment, general coordination defi-

cits, disorders of memory and thinking, speech and lan-

guage difficulties, emotional instability, impulsivity,

low frustration tolerance, mood fluctuations, motivational

abnormalities, vague free-floating anxiety, performance

instability, and a history of academic failure (Adelman &

Taylor, 1983; Clements, 1966; Fleisher, Goodak, & Julin,

1984; Kaulger & Kolson, 1978; Lerner, 1981; Meier, 1971;

Sattler, 1982). A minority of learning disabled children

have specific neurologic disorders. Most have no abnor-

malities that can be medically diagnosed (Kandt, 1984).

Jacobs (1984) discussed the characteristics of

learning disabled children from a cognitive perspective.

She viewed learning disabled children as passive learners

and noted that this lack of involvement is a major

contributor to the disability. Continuing, Jacobs

suggested that lack of hard work, difficulty following

directions, and deficiencies in perceptual, memory,

attention, and control processes characterize learning

disabled children.

Smith (1980) composed a list of typical problems of

learning disabled children. The list consists of 70

items, 10 each in seven areas including reading, language,

spelling, handwriting, arithmetic, thinking, and school

problems. The list was formulated to help teachers of


emotionally handicapped children recognize learning dis-

abilities among the children they teach.

Looking at learning disabled children and

emotionally handicapped children, Fuchs, Fuchs, and Deno

(1985) studied the performance instability of the two

groups. The results of their study indicated no

difference between the groups. They questioned why

performance instability is believed to be a unique

descriptor of learning disabled children and reported that

their findings were consistent "with a growing body of

empirical evidence that has failed to find reliable,

distinctive characteristics of learning disabled pupils"


Emotionally Handicapped Children

Children in classes for the emotionally handicapped

appear to have problems in three areas; conduct,

inadequacy/immaturity, and personality (Quay, Morse, &

Culter, 1966). Examined in another manner, the

characteristics of emotionally handicapped children can be

defined as belonging to one of three patterns;

unsocialized aggressive, socialized aggressive, or

overinhibited (Kirk, 1979; Sattler, 1982). The emotionally

handicapped child is characterized as having poor impulse

control, a low self-image, poorly developed modulation of

emotion, special learning disabilities, relationship


deficits, inability to delay gratification, suspicious-

ness, restlessness, lack of spontaneity, irritability,

and/or apathy (Apter & Conoley, 1984; Roots, 1979).


Examining the differences between emotionally

handicapped and learning disabled children, Roots (1979)

suggested that the academic deficiencies of emotionally

handicapped children are the result of inappropriate

behavior, whereas learning disabled children are

underachievers as the result of deficits in psychological

processes. Moreover, emotionally handicapped children do

not seem to respond to traditional classroom controls,

whereas learning disabled children do. According to

Roots, the emotionally handicapped child showed consistent

test profiles in contrast to sporadic performance on tests

by learning disabled children. Additionally, the

emotionally handicapped child displayed great difficulty

with interpersonal relationships and consistently behaved


Criteria For Identification

No one set of criteria exists for placing children

in programs for learning disabilities or emotional

handicaps. A comprehensive survey (Mercer et al.,

1985) revealed the variance in how states operationalize

the criteria for learning disabilities. This is not

surprising when reflecting on the lack of professional


agreement on a definition for either condition and over-

lap of behavioral characteristics between the groups.

Studies in Colorado (Smith, 1982), Hawaii (Furlong &

Yanagida, 1985), Iowa (Trippe & Mathey, 1982), Michigan

(Perlmutter & Parus, 1983), Minnesota (Algozzine &

Ysseldyke, 1982, 1983), and North Carolinia (Sherry, 1982)

have each demonstrated lack of consistency within and

across districts and/or lack of difference among


The criteria for entry into learning disabilities

programs in the state of Florida include (a) average,

near average, or above average ability intellectually;

(b) a significant discrepancy between achievement and

ability; (c) sensory integrity, but lack of ability to

receive, organize, share, or remember stimuli efficiently;

(d) not physically handicapped, culturally deprived, or

emotionally disordered; and (e) a combination of confer-

ences, observations, educational alternatives, intelligence,

achievement, and process testing prior to consideration of

placement (Work & Whitehurst, 1983).

Lakin (1982) observed that no standard existed for

identifying emotionally handicapped children. The

criteria for placement differed according to theoretical

view. The Joint Commission for the Mental Health of

Children and Youth (Long et al., 1980) has stated that an

emotionally handicapped child shall meet the following


criteria. They shall (a) have an impairment of age-

relevant capacity to perceive the external environment

realistically,(b) possess inadequate impulse control, (c)

experience a lack of rewarding interpersonal relation-

ships, and (d) demonstrate a failure to achieve


State of Florida criteria follow the definition

cited above with conferences, observations, educational

alternatives, social histories, and intellectual,

academic, personality/adjustment measures being part of

the total evaluation process.

Identification Problems


The identification of children as learning disabled

or emotionally handicapped begins with the initial refer-

ral by the classroom teacher which Ysseldyke and Algozzine

(1983) asserted is the most important decision in the

process of placement. Their research indicated that of

children referred, 92% were evaluated, and of those 78%

were placed in special education. Thus, when educators are

faced with the failure of a child to learn, they view the

problem as a learning disability or behavior problem and

the teacher is exonerated (Trippe & Mathey, 1982).


Bias is viewed as a reoccurring problem before,

during, and after assessment. A number of studies

(Adelman & Taylor, 1983; Knoff, 1984; Trippe & Mathey,

1982; Ysseldyke, 1983; Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1979, 1983)

have questioned the validity of current procedures for

placing children in special education. Teachers refer

children who distrub them. As summarized by Ysseldyke and

Algozzine (1979), the sex, appearance, race, troublesome-

ness, and perceived ability of the child will often

determine who is referred.

Assessment is undertaken to provide the information

needed to determine eligibility. To be fair the

assessment should be carried out by qualified personnel

using technically adequate tests in a process free of

cultural and ethnic bias. Bennett (1983) stated that this

is not common current practice. Davis and Shepard (1983)

noted that of 19 most frequently used tests only four are

acceptable to the American Psychological Association.

Furthermore, professionals are generally not familiar with

the technical properties of the tests they use.

At team meetings to determine placement a

conglomerate of information is presented. Scores on formal

tests of intelligence and achievement are required by PL

94-142 as are informal data including anecdotal records

and social histories. However, the team tends to

endorse the problems observed by the teacher. The more

information presented the more likely the child is to be

- -


placed. Little relationship exists between type of data

and placement (Ysseldyke, Algozzine, Rickey, & Granden,

1982). Knoff (1984) reported that multidisciplinary teams

generally place children more appropriately than

individual team members, but school psychologists most

influence assessment decisions.

Astman (1984) explored the "roots and effects of the

identity crisis in special education" (p. 299). He

offered a cursory review of special education, particular

the field of learning disabilities. Astman (1984)

asserted that rarely have educators considered the context

within which learning disabilities take on their meaning,

failing to consider that we can only observe handicaps

against a standard. Subsequently educators attempt to

"rescue" children who do not meet normative standards

without questioning whether the norms are appropriate to

the child.

Labeling is another form of bias that occurs as a

result of identification. Labels affect the perceptions

and behavior of the child and impact other's perception

and actions toward the child (Lerner, 1981). Stainback

and Stainback (1985) discussed labels as one more way

children are asked to fit into the system rather than

having the system adjust for the child. Ysseldyke and

Algozzine (1979) have presented a summary of selected

investigations on the effects of labeling.


The National Association of School Psychologists

(Advocacy, 1985) offered a position paper recognizing that

"it is not a benign action to label as 'handicapped'

children who are not truly handicapped" (p.4). The posi-

tion statement discussed problems originating from

labeling. According to their statement the label is often

irrelevant to instruction, may prevent more meaningful

understanding of the child's needs, may reduce expecta-

tions for the child, and often decreases the willingness

of regular educators to teach children at risk for


Differential Diagnosis

Trippe and Matthey (1982) discussed the theory that

mentally retarded, emotionally handicapped, and learning

disabled are school-induced classifications for children

who are not learning, not adjusting, or are learning

differently from the norm. According to their article,

90% of children in special education are there because

they did not meet the expectations of regular education.

Children who did not meet a minimal acceptable rate of

learning in the regular classroom were removed to special

classes. This action did no.t remove all children who posed

serious problems for teachers, so classes for children

with emotional problems that interfere with learning were

formed. This still left children in class who in some

ways were socially and academically competent, but were


failing to learn through usual classroom procedures.

Rather than question the practices of the school, the

child was labeled handicapped and placed in a special

class for the learning disabled. This all has occurred

even though research has failed to document that children

are more effectively served in segregated programs (Trippe

& Mathey, 1982).

Considering the criteria for classifying children as

mentally retarded, emotionally handicapped, or learning

disabled, Trippe and Mathey (1982) noted that it is

"rather pointless to ask if a particular child is really

learning disabled or emotionally disturbed and to expect

that the question can be answered accurately and reliably

by present available clinical procedures and evaluations"

(p.6). Continuing, they contended that not only is the

decision difficult to make but it is also of minimal

value in making educational decisions. Furthermore, they

noted that most decisions regarding these children tended

to be made arbitrarily. Differentiating mentally retarded

children from learning disabled and emotionally handicap-

ped children is more likely to be determined on the basis

of intelligence scores and adaptive behavior, a practice

that has generated "controversy over tests, testing, cul-

tural bias, and the disproportionate representation of

lower socioeconomic and minority children in classes for

the mentally retarded" (Trippe & Mathey, 1982, p.7). They

viewed the growth of classes for the learning disabled as

a consequence of change in social system labeling, not as

a change in child populations. Trippe and Mathey (1982)

contended that the categories mentally retarded, emotion-

ally handicapped, and learning disabled were manufactured

by educators for organizational, political, and economic


Support for the Study

Professional Practice

Current practices revolving around identification

and research methods are of concern to this study. Each

relies on the other.

Identification. The difficulties surrounding

accurate identification of children as learning disabled

or emotionally handicapped have been discussed at length.

Research has indicated problems with present referral,

assessment, labeling, and differential diagnostic

practices. Adelman and Taylor (1983) stated that the

diagnostic classification of learning disabilities is a

practical necessity and a procedural problem. Ysseldyke

(1983) reviewed the current practices in making psycho-

educational decisions about learning disabled children and

arrived at the following conclusions: (a) Team meetings

are ineffective and children are placed regardless of the

data presented, (b) inadequate tests are used to evaluate

children, (c) evaluators cannot differentiate between low-


achievers and learning disabled children, (d) interven-

tions specific to learning disabled children are non-

existent, and (e) referral is the most important decision

towards the placement of a child. Osgood (1984) noted that

presently identification as learning disabled is based

on formulae and charts that explicitly denote the

potential and achievement scores required to qualify.

The identification of emotionally handicapped

children is based on theoretical view, tests, interview,

observations, and clinical judgment. Reviewing current

identification practices, Long et al. (1980) wrote that

three problems confound the determination of deviance; (a)

philosophical stance toward conformity, (b) whether the

implied blame on the child is justified or whether

external conditions must be changed, and (c) whether

screening and diagnosis are often a prelude to a self-

fulfilling prophecy. Since it is the first decision made

in the identification process, referral is an important

decision in the process leading to placement of the

deviant child.

Research. Morrison et al. (1985) discussed the

identification of learning disabled children and its

effects on sampling for research purposes. Lakin (1982)

did the same for emotionally handicapped children. Both

articles warn that unreliable sampling procedures have


seriously reduced the generalizability of current

research. Furthermore, both articles recommended that

researchers define samples more specifically, recognize

the complexity of educational situations, and strive to

relate more of their work to the real world of the


Categorical Classification

Special education was supposed to be the response to

students' special needs. Instead it has become a

"nonsystem" (Ysseldyke, Reynolds, & Weinberg, 1984) that

has created major problems. Ysseldyke et al. (1984) called

for the demise of extended categories as useful

instructional classifications, stating that "none of the

classifications is reliable or used consistently across

various school districts. In particular, the categories

used for the 'milder' levels of deviation from the norm

are virtually unrelated to instruction"(p.8). In their

text, Ysseldyke et al. (1984) suggested disbanding

entirely the process of classifying mildly handicapped


Stating that there are not special students and

regular students but a continuum of students, Stainback

and Stainback (1984) presented their rationale for the

merger of special and regular education. They contended

that all students could benefit from individualized

services, and that there were not two discrete sets of


instructional methods making a dual system of education

necessary. According to Stainback and Stainback (1984)

the system created the need to classify students even

though classification is minimally useful in educational

planning. Furthermore, Stainback and Stainback (1984)

stated that although some students may need modification

and adaptations in their education, their needs could be

met in a system that recognizes and accommodates for


Studies (Lilly, 1977; Stainback & Stainback, 1984;

Sherry, 1982; Trippe & Mathey, 1982; Ysseldyke et al.,

1984) have suggested that the concept of categorical

classification may be "aulty because of focus: instead of

accommodating the system to the child, the child is la-

beled deviant and placed outside the system. In addition,

each considered the validity of the categories and their

usefulness to education. PL 94-142 as a means of ensuring

that no child is turned away from the public

schools guarantees a free and appropriate education to all

children. This law and its regulations have probably had

more influence than any other factors on the growing trend

to categorize children (Algozzine & Korinek, 1985; Trippe

& Mathey, 1982). Requiring classification for services,

PL 94-142 with its mandates based on ideals, has led to

conceptual confusion and "educators have responded by

doing some absurd things under the belief that 'it is the

law'" (Ysseldyke & Algozzine, 1982, p. 233). The wide

varibility in interpreting what the law requires and how

it differientates between classifications has created a

situation of unequal services and wide variance in



Intelligence Measure

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised.

The WISC-R is a measure of intelligence that reflects

capacity for intelligent behavior (Wechsler, 1974). It is

perhaps the most widely used measure of intellectual

functioning for children ages 6-0 to 16-11 years old

(Newmark, 1985). It has been normed using a stratified

sampling procedure to ensure representative proportions of

various classes of children as based on 1970 census data.

Variables of age, sex, race (white, non-white), geographic

region, occupation of head of household and urban-rural

residence were controlled.

Standardization. The norming sample consisted of 2200

cases limited to "normal" children. Institutionalized

mental detectives and children with severe emotional

problems were not included (Wechsler, 1974). It is

certain that children with learning disabilities, school

identified and not-yet identified were included in the

sample ( Klalskin, McNamara, Shaffer, & Pencus, 1972).

Galvin (1981) concluded that since mildly handicapped


children were not excluded in the norming sample the WISC-

R is appropriate to use in their assessment.

Reliability. The WISC-R has excellent reliability.

High internal consistency has been reported for the scales

(Sattler, 1982; Wechsler, 1974). Split-half reliability

coefficients were found to be .90 for the performance IQ,

.94 for the verbal IQ, and .96 for the full scale IQ

(Newmark, 1985; Wechsler, 1974). Test-retest reliability

assessed by retesting 303 children for the standardization

sample also suggested stability. These correlations were

.93 for the verbal IQ, .90 for the performance IQ, and .95

for the full scale IQ. Practice effects seem to influence

the performance scale to a greater degree than the verbal

scale (Newmark, 1985). For learning disabled children the

WISC-R has a test-retest reliability coefficient of .94

for a group of 161 learning disabled children after a

seven month interval which supports the idea of

reliability of the WISC-R with these children (Galvin,


Validity. Sattler (1982) gave a thorough review of

studies evaluating the criterion validity of the WISC-R to

c-her measures of intelligence. Correlates between these

tests range from the upper .30's to the low .80's

indicating satisfactory concurrent validity. Factor

analysis has been utilized to investigate the construct

validity of the WISC-R. The factor structure divides into


three main factors: verbal comprehension, perceptual

organization, and freedom from distractibility. Studies

have reported that this factor structure is evident in

samples of mentally retarded children, adolescent

psychratric populations, and learning disabled children

(Newmark, 1985). Considering the predictive validity of

the WISC-R, studies have indicated that it is a good

predictor of school achievement (Sattler, 1982).

Achievement Measures

Stanford Achievement Test. The SAT is both a norm-

referenced and criterion-referenced test to assess skill

development in several academic content areas. Three

forms of the test are available for six levels from grade

1.5 to 9.5. The test is generally administered to groups

of children in a classroom setting. Administration time

takes from three hours fifteen minutes to five hours

thirty minutes depending on test level. Scores are

reported as stanines, grade-equivalents, percentiles, age

scores, and standard scores.

The SAT has excellent standardization. Norms are

available for October and May administrations. The Otis-

Lennon Mental Abilities Test was used as a control measure

to ensure that the standardization sample was representa-

tive in terms of intellectual ability. School systems

used in the standardization sample were selected on

the bases of region, community socioenomic status, and


school-system size. Reliabilities ranged from .65 to .97.

Content validity was assured by submitting the test items

to subject-matter experts, measurement experts, minority

group persons, and teachers. Empirical validity indicates

a moderate to high relationship to the Metropolitan

Achievement Tests (Salvia & Ysseldyke, 1978).

Wide Range Achievement Test. The WRAT is a quick,

individually-administered achievement test that was

designed to measure skills in word recognition, spelling,

and math computation. The test is divided into two age

spans. Three types of scores are provided: grade equiva-

lents, percentiles, and standard scores.

The WRAT was normed in 1976 and using the same sample

was renormed in 1978. The normative sample consisted of

7,800 children for Level I and 7,400 children and adults

for Level II. Efforts were made to include ethnic groups

and persons from each IQ level. However, no representa-

tive national sampling was conducted. The WRAT norms tend

to underestimate achievement levels (Sattler, 1982).

Split-half reliabilities range from .94 to .98 for

all three subtests at both levels. Standard errors of

measurement are available in the manual (Jastak, Jastak, &

Bijou 1976). Test-retest reliabilities for samples of

emotionally disturbed and slow learning children range

from .87 to .98 (Sattler, 1982). This supports the

practice of using this test with these populations.


Validity studies have been done with the WRAT and

other achievement, intelligence, and ability tests. The

results of these studies suggest adequate concurrent

validity. Correlations between the WRAT and various

achievement tests are in the vicinity of .60 with several

groups of children including normal, learning disabled,

economically deprived, and mentally retarded (Sattler,

1982). Correlations with intelligence and ability tests

are in the vicinity of .40.

Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement. The WJTA is

part of the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery

(1977). The battery was standardized on 4,732 subjects

ranging in age from 3-0 to 80 years old living in 49

communities across the United States. The sample

population was chosen to closely resemble the 1970 census.

Handicapped children who were not receiving their

education in a regular classroom were excluded ( Salvia &

Ysseldyke, 1981).

Reliabilities, reported in the manual, were

calculated for percentile ranks and standard scores

rather than raw scores. Split-half reliabilities for the

achievement tests range within the .80's and .90's. The

technical manual fails to provide standard errors of

measurement ( Woodcock, 1978).

Concurrent and predictive validity coefficients using

various intelligence, ability, and achievement tests as

criteria, are satisfactory. Coefficients range from .40

to .80 (Sattler, 1982).

Process/ Emotionality Measure

The Bender-Gestalt Visual Motor Test is among the 10

most popular means of personality appraisal. Additionally,

it is popular as a tool for sampling visual motor behavior

(Newmark, 1985). The Koppitz Developmental Bender Scoring

System is perhaps the most popular objective scoring

system used in evaluating children (Sattler, 1982).

Percentile norms are available for children aged 5-0

through 10-11 years (Koppitz, 1963). The norms are based

on a sample of 975 elementary school children from varied

geographic locations. The sample included children from

several ethnic groups. The socioeconomic characteristics

of the sample were not reported.

Test-retest reliabilities have ranged from .50 to

.90 for the developmental scoring system. Sattler (1982)

suggested that the level of reliability is not high enough

to permit basing diagnostic decisions on the test alone.

The validity of the Bender is determined by the use of the

instrument. Used as a test of perceptual-motor

development, tne Bender appears to have acceptable

validity. Concurrent validity was established by

correlating with the Frostig Developmental Test of Visual

Perception (r=.39 to .56) and the Berry Developmental Test

of Visual Motor Integration (r=.82).


Koppitz (1963) reported several studies suggesting

that the Bender can differentiate between children who are

well adjusted and those who are not. Koppitz (1963) found

that among subjects five to seven years of age

66% of these children with two or less emotional

indicators on their Bender protocols were well adjusted

while 66% of these children with three or more emotional

indicators were emotionally handicapped. Sixty percent of

children aged eight to 10 years with two or less

emotional indicators had normal adjustment while 90% of

the children in this age group with three or more

emotional indicators were emotionally handicapped. Thus

it appears that the number of emotional indicators on a

given Bender protocol has diagnostic value.

Behavioral Checklist

The behavioral checklist was developed by combining

the behavioral observations found in the anecdotal records

of the sample of learning disabled and emotionally

handicapped children. The behaviors were first copied

from the records then grouped into eight categories.

(Appendix E) The list was then reviewed by two school

psychologists, a special education specialist, and several

special education teachers. Revisions were made according

to their suggestions so that those behaviors generally

associated with each category was properly listed. No

behaviors were added to the original list.




The purpose of this investigation was to provide

empirical evidence regarding the psychometric and

behavioral characteristics of children selected from

special categories of school placement, learning disabled,

emotionally handicapped, and underachievers as defined in

the Definition of Terms. The intellectual ability,

academic achievement, visual-motor integration, emotional

status, and behavioral characteristics of a sample of

these children were evaluated to determine if any

significant differences were evident among the groups.

Furthermore, the data were analyzed to determine if any

measure could differentiate among the three groups, ard

thus be of diagnostic value.


The variables relevant to this study included (a) the

verbal, performance, and full scale scores from the

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, (b)

reading and math scores from the Wide Range Achievement

Test or Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement, (c) error

and emotional indicator scores from the Bender-Gestalt

using Koppitz's scoring system, (d) ratings from

behavioral assessments, (e) amount of variance between

ability and achievement, and (f) placement in learning

disabilities, emotionally handicapped, or Chapter I

program for underachievers. Variables that were controlled

to limit their effects included age, sex, school setting,

date of evaluation, and test administrator.


The public school population of the United States in

the Fall of 1984 equaled 49,000,000 students. Of these

4,298,000 were in special education. Of those in special

education 42% were in learning disabilities classes, and

8.4% were in classes for the emotionally handicapped with

the balance in other classes for exceptional children (US

Bureau of Census, 1985). There is considerable variance

among estimates of the prevalence of the various

"handicapping conditions." Large variability in percent-

ages served exists among states; however, classification

patterns indicate that emotionally handicapped students

generally represent the smallest high prevalence category

and learning disabilities the largest (Algozzine &

Korinek, 1985).

The State of Florida reported 4% of its student

population was in special education as of 1983. This

figure is slightly less than the national percentage.

For the purposes of this study the populations of learning

disabled and emotionally handicapped children were defined

as students qualifying for these programs in the public

school system in Clay County, Florida. The Clay County

public school system also identified 4% of its student

population or 3525 children, as of September 1985, as in

need of special education. Of this number, 976 were in

classes for learning disabled and 205 were in classes for

the emotionally handicapped. The guidelines for inclusion

have been approved by the State of Florida as fulfilling

the requirements of PL 94-142 and for State of Florida

special education funding (G. Eilers, personal communica-

tion, October, 1985).

Students in Clay County Public Schools qualify for

the learning disabilities program when evaluation by a

certified school psychologist produces evidence that a

statistically significant discrepancy exists between

their intellectual ability and academic achievement.

Additionally, testing must reveal a disorder in the basic

psychological processes corroborated by two instruments.

Evidence must also be presented indicating that learning

problems are not primarily caused by other handicapping

conditions. A complete copy of Clay County's guidelines

for referral, evaluation, and placement can be found in

Appendix A (Clay County School Board, 1984). Additionally,

by consensus of the school psychologists working in the


system it is common practice in Clay County to use the

higher IQ score in determining academic discrepancy if a

significant difference exists between IQ scores. Prior

to August, 1984, a significant difference between verbal

and performance scores was considered to be 12 points.

Because of the large number of students obtaining such

scores (Kaufman, 1979) the psychologists decided at their

August, 1984 staff meeting that they would consider 15

points as significant in making decisions regarding

learning disabilities. Thus, variance scores for this

study were determined by using the full scale score minus

the lowest achievement score (either reading or math)

except if a 15 point difference existed between a child's

verbal IQ and performance IQ scores. Then the highest IQ

score minus the lowest achievement score was used as the

variance score.

To qualify for the program for the emotionally

handicapped the student is evaluated by a certified school

psychologist through observation, interview, and testing.

Evidence must indicate that the child's primary problem

cannot be attributed to intellectual deficits.

Furthermore, it must be determined that the student may

profit from special education opportunities. A child is

considered emotionally handicapped when his or her reac-

tions to life situations are so personally unrewarding and

so inappropriate as to be unacceptable to peers and to


adults. The emotionally handicapped child demonstrates

the extremes of any variable of behavior. The complete

text of the Clay County guidelines for inclusion in the

program for the emotionally handicapped is in Appendix B

(Clay County School Board, 1984).

The underachievers were defined as those children

who have not been referred for special education and who

are receiving Chapter I services in Clay County Public

Schools. In the spring of 1985, these children had scored

at or below the 30th percentile on the Stanford

Achievement Test in reading or math.


The sample included 57 children who attended four

public elementary schools in Clay County, Florida. Twenty-

eight children were in resource programs for learning

disabilities, six were in resource programs for emotional

handicaps, and 23 were in Chapter I resource classes.

Criteria for being chosen for the study required that the

student be between the ages of 7-0 to 11-6 so that none of

the subjects were too old to apply Koppitz's scoring

system to the Bender Gestalt nor so young as to reduce

the validity of the other measures. All the students also

were in grade two, or repeating grade one, through grade


The sample of learning disabled and emotionally

handicapped children was drawn from all the children


evaluated and subsequently placed in special education

during the 1984-1985 school year. They were evaluated

according to Clay County guidelines by the researcher and

one other school psychologist both of whom used

standardized test procedures. Only those children who met

the criteria of age and grade placement were included in

the study.

A stratified random sample of underachievers was

developed to proportionally match the learning disabled

and emotionally handicapped groups. These students came

from three of the five elementary schools offering Chapter

I services. They were chosen by Walter Brock, director of

Chapter I (personal communication, September 6, 1985).

Computer generated lists were utilized to identify the

underachieving children by grade, school, sex, and age.

The table of random numbers was then used to select 33

children for the study. Permission was obtained to

evaluate 23 of these children.


The records of those children selected to be part of

the learning disabled and emotionally handicapped samples

were studied and relevant information gathered. This

included WISC-R scores, achievement scores, Bender-Gestalt

scores, and ancedotal records which are part of the

child's placement record.


Consent forms were sent to the parents or guardians

of those children selected to be part of the

sample of underachieving students (Appendix C). Permis-

sion to be included in the study was obtained for 71% of

the selected underachieving students. After permission

was obtained to include a child in the study, the

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, the

Wide Range Achievement Test and Bender-Gestalt were admin-

istered to the child if the child consented to testing

(Appendix D). The child's teacher was asked to complete a

behavioral checklist rating the child's classroom behav-

iors (Appendix E). All evaluations took place during the

normal school day at a time agreed upon by the child's

teacher and the examiner. All evaluations were undertaken

by one of two school psychologists or one of two graduate

students and took no more than two hours per student. All

efforts were made to disrupt the school day as little as

possible and to make the experience as pleasant as

possible. Test results were made available to the

child's parents and, with their permission, to the child's


All data were identified by coded number to safe-

guard the confidentially of the child. Results were

recorded using standard scores with a mean of 100 and

standard deviation of 15 except emotional indicate scores

which were recorded as the number of indicators observed,


and behavioral ratings which were recorded as yes or no.

All data were recorded by the researcher and randomly

checked by another school psychologist for accuracy.


The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-

Revised (WISC-R), the Wide Range Achievement Test

(WRAT), the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJTA),

and the Bender-Gestalt Visual Motor Test were choose for

this study because of their common use as a test battery

for placing children in special education programs

(Perlmutter & Parus, 1983). Furthermore, each of these

instruments has adequate validity and reliability for the

groups being evaluated, as discussed in Chapter 2. Table 5

illustrates the constructional data for each of the

instruments used as part of the psychometric battery.

The behavioral checklist (Appendix E ) was developed

by combining the anecdotal records of the sample of

learning disabled and emotionally handicapped children

into a grouped list of behaviors. The ancedotal records

were initially written by classroom teachers to fulfill

referral requirements. Thus, they tend to present a

slanted view of the children's behavior. Teachers have a

tendency to note those behaviors they have been taught to

look for when determining when a child may need special

education. Teachers reported that it was simple to use and

took approximately five minutes to complete.

Table 5

Constructional Data


purpose measure assess measure assess
mental academic skill in level of
ability growth reading, visual-motor
spelling, perception;

age 6 to 16 3 to 83 5 to 64 5 to 10-11

examiner psych.* psych. psych. psych.
teacher teacher

scores standard standard standard standard
scaled gr. equ. age level percentiles
test age staines grade equ. age level
age level percentiles

score 40-160 55-145 55-145 8-155

time 50-75m 40-60m 20-30m 10-20m

scoring 30m 30m 15m 10m


The pool of underachievers was identified based on the

results of the Stanford Achievement Test. The SAT is a

group-administered test that is available for eight levels

ranging from primary (grade 1.5 2.4) to task level II

(grade 11 12). Children in the sample were tested with

batteries appropriate to their grade level. The child's

supervised the test administration at the school level.

The battery was given during one week in March of 1985 to

all children in Clay County schools. The interpretation


of raw scores is based on norms obtained from over 275,000

students drawn from 43 states in the United States. These

norms were used to obtain percentile ranks. All test

protocols were machine scored (T. Finn, personal commun-

ication, September, 1985).

Research Participants

All data were gathered by the researcher, one other

school psychologist, and two graduate students in school

psychology. The researcher holds a specialist degree in

school psychology and masters in special education. She

has practiced school psychology for two years and has been

a teacher for 18 years, five in special education. The

second psychologist holds a master's degree in school

psychology and has worked in the field for seven years.

Prior to this she was a special education teacher. Both

participants are employed as school psychologists by the

Clay County Public School System and hold valid

certification. The graduate students had just completed a

course in tests and evaluation and were trained by the

researcher to administer the research battery.


The data were analyzed in two parts using SPSS

packages. First, the normative data from the Wechsler

Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, Wide Range

Achievement Test, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement,

and Bender were analyzed using one-way analysis of


variance. A separate analysis was performed for each

score by group. Post hoc analyses using the Scheffe

procedure were performed when significance at the .05

level or beyond among groups was found to determine be-

tween which means significant differences existed. The

second part of the analysis consisted of applying chi-

square tests to determine whether the frequency of yes and

no responses differed among the three groups for each of

the eight categories on the behavioral checklist. The

percent of occurrence for each category by group was used

to determine which group or groups obtained a high

proportion of yes responses for each behavior.


Conclusions based on the current investigation's

findings must be tempered because of several

methodological factors. First, the limitations of current

diagnostic procedures almost guarantee that children in

any given sample taken from pre-identified groups will

differ as to the nature and severity of their problems.

Second, although standardized procedures were utilized,

the limitions inherent in the evaluation measures must be

considered including that the behavioral checklist was not

a standardized instrument. Third, another difficulty was

that given the same data different examiners may arrive at

different conclusions which in turn affect future

decisions made regarding a child. A fourth limitation


stems from the fact that all data for the learning

disabled and emotionally handicapped groups were gathered

from placement data obtained during the 1984-1985 school

year. Data for the underachievers were obtained during the

1985-1986 school year. Differences in scores may be re-

lated to current history and attitudes. Fifth, general-

ization is limited because the sample may not match the

national population of learning disabled, emotionally

handicapped, or underachieving children because of the

lack of consensus regarding criteria to identify and de-

fine these groups of children. The sample was also

limited in size and from a small geographic area.

Analysis is also limited because of the correlational

effects of the data. No provision was made in this study

to account for the interaction of the variables upon each

other. The intercorrelation of the variables was not

investigated statistically because the size of the samples

would not allow for valid tests of this type.



The purpose of this study was to investigate the

discriminating value of commonly-used diagnostic measures

among learning disabled (LD), emotionally handicapped

(EH), and underachieving (UA) children. To this end psy-

chometric and behavioral data were collected for a sample

of 57 students. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for

Children-Revised, Wide Range Achievement Test, or Wood-

cock-Johhson Tests of Achievement, Bender, and a

behavioral checklist were utilized.

Table 6 illustrates the distribution for the sample

for this study which was comprised of previously-placed

learning disabled and emotionally handicapped children

and a stratified random sample of underachieving children

chosen to proportionally match the learning disabled/

emotionally handicapped group on the basis of school

setting, grade level, and sex. Of 33 children chosen to

form the underachieving group permission to be in the

study was obtained for 23. All the children in the

learning disabled and emotionally handicapped classes were

evaluated and placed during the 1984-1985 school year.


Test data and behavioral observations were gathered from

county records for these children. The children in the

underachieving group were evaluated during the 1985-1986

school year by two school psychologists and two graduate

students. The behavioral checklist for each of these

students was completed by their regular classroom teacher.

Table 6

Sample Distribution


Condition LD EH UA
N % N % N %

urban 21 75 5 83 18 78
rural 7 25 1 17 5 22

1* 0 0 1 16.6 0 0
2 12 42.9 1 16.6 11 47.8
3 9 32 2 33.3 5 21.7
4 6 21.4 2 33.3 6 26
5 1 3.5 0 0 1 4.3

M 22 78.5 6 100 17 81.8
F 6 27.3 0 0 6 18.2

* repeating grade 1

One-way analysis of variance was used to test the

data for the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-

Revised, the Wide Range Achievement Test, Woodcock-Johnson

Tests of Achievement, and Bender. Standard scores with a

mean of 100 and standard deviation of 15 were used in the

statistical analysis.

Table 7

Summary Descriptive Statistics, ANOVA, and Scheff4 of
Psychometric Data By Group

Variable LD EH UA F F prob. Scheffe

M 102.6 84.3 96 6.192 .0038* LD>EH
SD 12.7 11.5 11.6

M 104.8 92 101 2.419 .0986
SD 12.3 16.1 13.6

M 103.8 86.6 98.1 5.863 .0050* LD>EH
SD 11.1 12.9 11.6

M -1.55 -0.33 -0.52 13.924 .0000** LD>EH/UA
SD .59 .79 .91

M 86.5 84.5 96.2 7.755 .0011* UA>LD/EH
SD 10.6 9.6 8.1

M 97.8 88.1 96.9 1.779 .1785
SD 12.9 5.9 10.4

M 87.1 83.2 92.4 .709 .4965
SD 20.7 20.4 19.4
M 1.1 3.0 1.9 9.919 .0002** EH/UA>LD
SD .9 1.1 1.0 EH>UA

* p<.01
** p<.001

Table 7 summarizes the means and standard deviations

obtained by the three groups of children on the

psychometric measures. Scheffe's multiple comparison tests

were used to determine between which of the means

significant differences existed and are also summarized in

Table 7. The ANOVA summary table is presented in Appendix


Since the data from the behavioral checklist were

nominal in nature, chi-square was used to determine

whether the frequency of behaviors differed among the

three groups. These data are summarized in Table 8.

Table 8

Summary of Significance Tests on Responses to Behavioral


Response LD EH UA Chi-square Prob

Distracts self

Yes n 8 6 16 11.44 .0033**
% 34.8 100 72.7
No n 15 0 6
% 65.2 0 27.3

Distracts class

Yes n 3 3 10 6.58 .0372*
% 13.0 50.0 45.5
No n 20 3 12
% 87.0 50.0 54.4

Poor work habits

Yes n 14 5 13 1.25 .5357
% 60.9 83.3 59.1
No n 9 1 9
% 39.1 16.7 40.9

Table 8 continued



Processing and Memory Problems

Yes n 15 1 14 5.00 .0820
% 65.2 16.7 63.6
No n 8 5 8
% 34.8 83.3 36.4

Poor Self Concept

Yes n 1 3 11 12.67 .0018**
% 4.3 50.0 50.0
No n 22 3 11
% 95.7 50.0 50.0


Yes n 0 3 5 10.44 .0054**
% 0 50 22.7
No n 23 3 17
% 100 50 77.3


Yes n 0 4 2 20.64 .0000***
% 0 66.7 9.1
No n 23 2 20
% 100 33.3 90.9

Inappropriate Affect

Yes n 0 4 6 14.85 .0006***
% 0 66.7 27.3
No n 23 2 16
S 100 33.3 72.7

* p<.05
** p<.01
*** p<.001



Research Question 1

Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled, and

underachieving children be differentiated based on reading

and/or math scores obtained from the Wide Range

Achievement Test or Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement?

A one-way analysis of variance was used in analyzing

the data by group for each the reading and math subtest.

The results showed significant differences among the

groups in reading (F=7.755, df 2, 54, p<.01). The mean

differences between groups failed to reach significance

(F=1.779, df 2, 54, p<.17) on the math subtest. Scheffe's

multiple comparison test was used to determine the means

between which significant differences existed on the

reading subtest. An examination of the means in Table 7

indicates that the mean for underachieving children was

significantly higher than the mean for the learning

disabled group and the mean for the emotionally

handicapped group.

Research Question 2

Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled, and

underachieving children be differentiated based on verbal,

performance, or full scale scores from the Wechsler

Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised?

The results of a one-way analysis of variance revealed

significant differences among the groups in verbal

scores (F=6.192, df 2, 54, p<.01) and full scale scores

(F=5.863, df 2, 54, p<.01). The difference between means

failed to reach significance on performance scores

(F=2.419, df 2, 54, p<.09). Scheffe tests were computed to

determine which groups were significantly different from

each other on the variables verbal score and full scale

score. It was found that on both variables the learning

disabled group was significantly higher than the

emotionally handicapped group (p<.01). No other

significant differences were found.

Research Question 3

Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled, and

underachieving children be differentiated based on age

equivalent scores or number of emotional indicators from

the Bender-Gestalt?

Analysis of the Bender age equivalent scores

indicated no significant differences among the groups (F=

.709, df 2, 54, p<.49). Significant differences were found

among the groups on mean number of emotional indicators

(F= 9.919. df 2,54, p<.01). The Scheffe procedure re-

vealed significant differences between groups. The

emotionally handicapped group's mean was significantly

higher than the means of the learning disabled and under-

achieving groups. Moreover, the underachieving group's

mean was also significantly higher than the mean of the

learning disabled group.


Research Question 4

Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled, and

underachieving children be differentiated based on teacher

completed behavioral checklist?

Chi-square analyses suggested that eight of the six

characteristics on the behavioral checklist were signifi-

cant. As shown on Table 8, 100% of the emotionally handi-

capped children were characterized as being self distract-

ing compared to 72% of the underachieving group and 34%

of the learning disabled group, chi-square (2,N=51) =

11.44, p<.01. The emotionally handicapped children also

were rated as more aggressive, antisocial, and as showing

more inappropriate affect than the underachieving and

learning disabled children. The analyses revealed that

both emotionally handicapped and underachieving children

seemed more likely to have a poor self concept and to be

distracting to the class. None of the learning disabled

children were rated as being aggressive, antisocial, or as

showing inappropriate affect. Chi-square analyses

indicated no significant differences among the three

groups as related to work habits and processing and memory


Research Question 5

Can emotionally handicapped, learning disabled, and

underachieving children be differentiated based on the


amount of variance between their Wechsler scores and

achievement scores?

A significant difference was found to exist among the

groups on verbal IQ (F=6.192, df 2, 54, p<.01). The

analysis of variance also showed that the groups' means

were significantly different on the variable full scale IQ

(F= 5.863, df 2, 54, p<.01) The mean differences among the

groups failed to reach significance (F=2.419, df 2, 54,

p<.09) on the performance IQ means. The Scheffe tests

were conducted on the verbal IQ and full scale IQ data and

indicated that the learning disabled children scored

significantly higher than the emotionally handicapped

children on both these variables. No other significant

differences were found.





This study focused on the problems associated with

categorizing children into programs for the mildly

handicapped. There are many factors involved in the

placement of children including referral, evaluation, and

differential diagnosis. Multiple components surround each

of these areas, such as definitions of handicapping

conditions, testing, labeling, and educational practice.

It is very difficult to study any one aspect of the

problem of categorical education without including the

others. However, the primary purpose of this study was to

evaluate the ability of a standardized test battery and

teacher-made behavioral observations to differentiate

among learning disabled, emotionally handicapped, and

underachieving children.

Diagnoses can be made only when conditions are known

or defined (Bennett, 1983'). Thus, the definitions of

learning disabled, emotionally handicapped, and

underachievement used by the Clay County public school



system were adopted as the identifying criteria. Data

from evaluations of children in each of these three groups

were analyzed to determine if significant differences

existed among them. The statistical procedure, one-way

analysis of variance was utilized to assess the

psychometric data. The nominal data were analyzed using



The analyses indicate that the learning disabled

sample scored significantly higher than the emotionally

handicapped sample on the the variable verbal IQ and

subsequently on the variable full scale IQ. The mean

scores in Table 7 suggest that the learning disabled and

underachieving children scored in the average range of

ability and the emotionally handicapped children in the

lower extreme of the low average range. This is

consistent with the criteria for learning disabilities

placement (Appendix A) and with idea that underachievers

should possess near average or better intellectual

ability. The lower scores obtained by emotionally

handicapped children have reflected their depressed

ability to function verbably.

A one-way analysis of variance gives evidence that

the underachieving group obtained significantly higher

scores in reading than the other children. Thus, although


these children are eligible to receive special help in

reading and/or math they were not in as serious trouble

academically as the learning disabled or emotionally

handicapped children. This is not surprising given the

fact that the cut-off for inclusion in Chapter I was a

percentile score of 30 on a group test. In other words,

some of the children in the underachieving group were

demonstrating average to near average skills.

It is interesting to note that statistically more of

the underachievers seem to have been experiencing

behavioral/emotional problems than the learning disabled

group. This was shown on the Bender and on the behavioral


As illustrated in Table 7, the emotionally

handicapped and underachieving children differed

significantly from the learning disabled group on these

measures. The underachieving children showed significantly

more signs associated with emotional instability than the

learning disabled group on the Bender. Teachers also

rated the underachieving group as having more

emotional/behavioral problems than the learning disabled

children. Table 8 exhibits the ratings and suggests that

learning disabled children can be differentiated from

emotionally handicapped and underachieving children based

on their behavior. The learning disabled children

received the least yes responses on the behavioral


checklist among the groups. None of the learning disabled

children were rated as aggressive, antisocial, or as

showing inappropriate affect. Only 4% of these children

were rated as demonstrating a poor self-concept. In

contrast, 100% of the emotionally handicapped children

were evaluated as self distacting, and 50% or more of

these children were seen as distracting to the class,

having a poor self-concept, being aggressive, antisocial,

and showing inappropriate affect. These results are

consistent with the ideas presented by Trippe and Mathey

(1982) and Ysseldyke (1983). The underachieving children

were evaluated as being self distracting, distracting to

their class, and as demonstrating a poor self concept. On

these last two factors their mean scores were very

similar to those of the emotionally handicapped group.

There were no significant differences among the teacher

ratings for the three groups on poor work habits or memory

and processing skills.

Variance between achievement and ability seems to be a

discriminating factor. The analyses give evidence that

the learning disabled children had significantly more

variance between ability and achievement than the

emotionally handicapped and underachieving groups. Having

at least one standard deviation of difference between IQ

and achievement was a required criterion for this age

group for placement in learning disabilities classes in

Clay County (Appendix A). However, the mean score was

-1.5 for the learning disabled group whereas the emotion-

ally handicapped and underachieving children appeared to

be functioning much closer to their ability levels. These

results are in contrast to those of Sherry (1982) and

Ysseldyke, Allgozzine, Shinn, and McGue (1982).


Educators and researchers need to make continued

efforts to define and characterize handicapping conditions

if they wish to make consistent differential diagnoses.

This study should be replicated increasing the sample size

and geographic area included. In other words, it would be

benifical if this study could be conducted using children

from various parts of the country, but maintaining the

same criteria for inclusion. This would help eliminate

one of the problems that now exists, namely, that

different researchers are not using consistent criteria

for identifying children as members of specific groups and

thus reporting conflicting results. With a larger sample

discriminate analysis could be conducted to test the data

and the intercorrelations of the variables could also be


Research should continue to explore the value of

identifying these children as it relates to their

educational and emotional growth. The question of the

value of instructing these children separately from other

children still needs to be resolved.

It may be that the frequency, intensity, and

duration of behavioral problems, emotionally handicapped,

and underachieving children differ. However, since they

appear to share many of the same characteristics it seems

that educators should address the emotional aspects of

underachievement with greater intensity. If children are

expected to develop healthy personalities it is important

that their emotional needs be addressed. These children

are telling us something by their behavior. Shall we

label them deviant and set them out of the social system

or is it not time to listen to Eirkson (1980) and provide

educational environments that promote positive growth?

School psychologists are in a unique position to offer

counseling to these children and their parents, and

consultative services to teachers to minimize the problems

of underachievement.


The data gathered in this study suggest that learning

disabled, emotionally handicapped, and underachieving

children do differ from each other. Differences in

intellectual functioning, reading ability, emotional

status, behavior, and variance between ability and

achievement were demonstrated. The groups did not appear

to be different in two areas commonly considered


characteristics of learning disabilities, processing

and/or memory problems and poor work habits.

Underachieving children seemed to demonstrate many of the

same behavioral patterns as those children labeled

emotionally handicapped.

It is hoped that this study will help educators,

legislators, and parents understand the complexity of

categorical education. Every child is different, some are

just more so. Mildly handicapped children present a

problem to educators and parents because their problems

are not so pronounced as to be unmistakable, and yet

interfere with their progress in school and the orderly

running of the classroom. Perhaps we need to stop

studying the child and study the system to determine how

education can change to meet the needs of children without

labeling them and segregating them from the mainstream of

society. They may be different from the majority of

children and from each other on psychometric measures, but

they are still children in their formative years. This

study focused on their differences; perhaps we should focus

on how they ara the same.

The value of continuing the practice of differential

diagnosis and special education placement has yet to be

shown. In light of Eirkson's theory perhaps we should

focus on helping children use their own styles of learning

and provide opportunities for growth without labels.



Definition: A disorder in one or more of the basic

psychological processes involved in understanding or in

using spoken or written language. Disorders may be

manifested in disorders of listening, thinking, reading,

talking, writing, spelling, or arithmethic. Such dis-

orders do not include learning problems which are due

primarily to visual, hearing or motor handicaps, to mental

retardation, to emotional disturbance or to environmental


Students are considered as possible candidates for the

program for children with specific learning disabilities

if they meet all of the following criteria:

1. Criteria for Eligibility

a. The student must be between 3-18 years of age. In

addition, the SLD student may complete one (1)

additional year of school beyond the 13th year, if

evidence indicates that a 14th year will enable

him to complete requirements for the diploma he



b. Evidence that learning problems are not due

primarily to other handicapping conditions:

1. For students whose history indicates the

possibility of visual processing deficits,

evidence that acuity is of at least 20/70 in

the better eye with the best possible

correction, or there must be evidence that the

student's inability to perform adequately on

tasks which require visual processing is not

due primarily to poor visual acuity.

2. For students whose history indicates the

possibility of auditory processing or language

deficits, evidence that loss of auditory acuity

is no more than 30 decibel in the better ear

unaided, or evidence that the student's

inability to perform adequately on tasks which

require auditory processing or language is not

due primarily to poor auditory acuity.

3. For students with a motor handicap, there must

be evidence that their inability to perform

adequately on tasks which assess the basic

psychological processes is not due to the motor


4. For the student with an emotional handicap,

evidence must be presented, to the satisfaction

of a qualified psychologist, that the student's


inability to perform adequately on tasks which

assess the basic psychological process is not

due to his emotional handicap.

c. Evidence that intellectual functioning is no more

than 2 standard deviations below the mean on an

appropriate Wechsler Scale or Stanford Binnet or

evidence that such a score is not a reliable

indicator of the student's intellectual potential.

A standardized intelligence test other than the

Wechaler or Stanford Binet may be administered at

the discretion of the psychologist. These may

include, but not be limited to, the Arthur

Adaptation of the Leiter, the Test of Nonverbal

Intelligence or the Kaufman ABC.

d. Evidence that the student exhibits a significant

discrepancy between levels of intellectual

functioning and achievement in the areas of

reading, writing, arithmetic or spelling, as


1. For preschool students, a discrepancy of 2/3

standard deviations or more between an

intellectual standard score and an academic

standard score.

2. For students, other than preschool, through

age 10, a discrepancy of one standard deviation

or more between an intellectual standard score

and academic score.

3. For students, ages eleven (11) and above, a

discrepancy of one and one-half (1 1/2) stand-

ard deviations or more between intellectual

standard score and academic standard scoress.

e. Evidence of a disorder in the basic psychological

processes. Basic psychological process areas

include visual, auditory, motor and language

processes. A disorder shall be evidenced by

performance on an age-appropriate measure chosen

from the following: Visual Aural Digit Span Test,

Detroit Test of Learning Disabilities, the

'oodcock-Johnson, the Kaufman analysis of the

Wechsler Scale, or the Bannatyne/Money analysis of

the McCarthy Scales of children's abilities or of

the Wechsler Scale(s) or the Kaufman ABC. In the

case of preschool students, the Gesell Preschool

Test may be used with a deficit defined as a

standard score one or more standard deviations

below the intellectual standard score. The test

shall be administered and the deficits)

determined in keeping with the test publisher's

specifications and definitions.

f. In addition, the disorder evidenced in e. must be

corroborated by a deficit (per publisher's


specifications) in a related process area as

measured by a second instrument noted in e.

Corroboration may also be evidenced by student's

performance on the Berry Test on Visual Motor

Integration, the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test

(using Koppitz analysis) or in the case of

students with documented or suspected expressive

language disorders, the Peabody Picture

Vocabulary Test or the Pictorial Test of

Intelligence. On the Peabody Picture Vocabulary

Test and the Pictorial Test of Intelligence, a

deficit shall be defined as a standard score one

or more standard deviations below the intellectual

standard score. In the case of preschool

students, corroboration of a deficit area will be

obtained from similar subtests on the Mc Carthy or


g. Parental cooperation: Parents must be consulted,

advised of their due process rights and informed

in writing of recommended special class placement/

Informed parental consent, in writing, must be

obtained prior to placement unless otherwise

determined by hearing procedures initiated by the




1. Criteria for Eligibility

a. Definition: Emotionally Handicapped children can

be perceived as children who, after receiving

supportive educational assistance and counseling

services available to all students, still exhibit

persistent and consistent severe behavioral

disabilities which disrupt the student's own

learning process. These children exhibit one or

more of the following characteristics to a marked

degree and over a period of time:

1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained

by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory

interpersonal relationships with peers

and teachers.

3. Inappropriate types of behavior or

feelings under normal circumstances

4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness

5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms,


pains, or fears associated with school or

personal problems

A child is emotionally handicapped when his

reactions to life situations are so

personally unrewarding and so inappropriate

as to be unacceptable to his peers and to

adults. Thus, handicapped children are

viewed as having limited patterns of behavior

and lacking flexibility to govern and modify

their behavior. Their behavior differs

considerably from others in their circum-

stances, not by kind, but by degree. They

are viewed as being too excitable or too

withdrawn, too brave or too fearful. They

are the extremes of any variable of behavior.

b. Chronological Age: The student must be

between 3-18years of age. In addition, the EH

student may complete one (1) additional year

of school beyond the 13th year if evidence

indicates that a 14th year will enable him to

complete requirements for the diploma he


c. Mental Ability: An individual intelligence

test (i.e., the Stanford-Binet, Form L-M,

Wechsler, or other as deemed appropriate by

the evaluator) administrated by a licensed or

certified psychologist, will indicate that

the primary problem cannot be attributed to

intellectual deficits.

d. School Achievement: An individual

achievement test such as the Wide Range

Achievement Test, or Peabody Individual

Achievement Test will be administered to

measure academic progression and identify

strengths and weaknesses.

e. Pychological/Pychiatric Diagnosis: It must

be determined by a licensed or certified

psychologist or psychiatrist that the

student's personality and attitudes are such

that the student may profit from special

education opportunities. Such input will be

used in the decision making process of the

staffing committee.

f. Parental Cooperation: Parents must be

consulted, advised of due process rights, and

informed in writing of recommended special

class placement. Provisions will be made for

a parent education program for all parents of

students placed full-time in emotionally

handicapped classes. It should be noted that

while complete success of any special program

for emotionally handicapped children is


contingent upon parental cooperation and

participation, children should not be

excluded form the program because of lack of

parental willingness to contribute.



Fall, 1985

Dear (parent or guardian),

My name is Janet Renuart. I am currently

employed as a school psychologist with the Clay

County School System and am pursuing my doctoral

degree at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

During the coming school year I will be conducting

research within the Clay County School System. The

aim of this study is to provide empirical data

regarding the academic achievement, cognitive

abilities, visual-motor integration and emotional

status for a sample of learning disabled, emotionally

disturbed, and non-referred children who scored at

the 27th percentile or below on the Stanford

Achievement Tests (SAT). This information will be

used to determine the best use of tests in placing

children in special programs.

As a participant in this study your child will

receive a test battery including the Wechsler

Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, the Wide


Range Achievement Test, and the Bender-Gestalt Test

for Young Children. Your child's name will not be

used and only group results will be reported.

However, all results will be available to you, and

with your consent to your child's teacher. Since

inclusion in the study is dependent on SAT scores I

also need your permission to access your child's

scores. No monetary compensation will be awarded for

taking part in this study.

Efforts will be made to make the test

experience a positive one with as little disruption

to your child's schedule as possible. You or your

child may withdraw permission to be included in the

study at any time without prejudice.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any

questions. I am at my office Fridays from 8am to 3pm.

You may call 284-6500 or 272-8100 ext. 511. If you

agree to allow your child to participate in this

study and for re to access his/her SAT scores for

1985 please sign below and return this letter to the

school. Thank you for your cooperation.

I have read and I understand the procedure

described above. I understand that this

investigation will be used for educational purposes

which may include publication. I also understand


that all information will be kept confidential within

legal limits.

I agree to allow my child, to

participate in the study and I have received a copy

of this description.

signed ,parent or guardian


phone date

signed 2nd, parent/witness


,principal investigator




(Child's name), I am (name of examiner), a

school psychologist working in the school system.

Like you I'm going to school and one thing I'm

studying is how different tests measure how people

are doing. To do this I'm giving a number of

children several tests and would like you to take

part in my study. Your parents have said it would be

all right. Would you like to help me by being part

of the study? If you decide to tak3 part you may

stop if you don't want to continue working with me.

I'd'like you to enjoy what we are doing.

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