Best Practice Regarding Specific Learning DisordersOctober 5, 2020
Douglas Agar, Ph.D
The purpose of this document is to examine the potential benefits and limitations, practical issues, and frequently asked questions associated with the broader interpretation of Specific Learning Disorders in the DSM 5.
The BCASP Executive encourages school psychologists to take a comprehensive Best Practices approach in the diagnosing of students with a Specific Learning Disorder, by ensuring that current evidence-based methodology and diagnostic criteria are used. It is important that the level of functional impact associated with of the Specific Learning Disorder is noted in accordance with DSM 5 criteria for mild, moderate and severe. More importantly is the acknowledgement that this current level of severity could change over time as a result of intervention. Given the relationship between functional impairment and level of required intervention, school psychologists play an integral role in clarifying a student’s strengths, as well as the degree to which a student’s educational attainment may require support. This approach is integral to assuring respectful, least restrictive and most effective methods of support, and the most effective evidence based remediation, that ultimately enable individual success.School psychologists promote collaboration and shared responsibility among classroom teachers, instructional support teachers, school psychologists, other involved professionals and parents. As a profession, we are committed to working as members of a multi-disciplinary team, designing interventions from a data-based decision-making approach within a Response to Intervention (RTI) model using evidence-based interventions.
This Best Practices approach addresses the needs of students who are formally diagnosed with a mild, moderate or severe Specific Learning Disorder as well as those students who are undiagnosed and struggle with comprehending a variety of concepts. Most importantly, this consultation/problem-solving orientation toward the practice of school psychology moves the conversation to data-based intervention planning, early planning and away from placing emphasis solely on a formal designation. Regardless of their categorical and/or diagnostic label, students require the benefit of effective instruction in the least restrictive manner. It is this collaborative work of school psychologists, classroom teachers, Instruction Support teachers, Speech and Language Pathologists, reading and math specialists and school administrators to constantly develop the relationship between effective instruction and performance. The process of linking assessment to a meaningful and evidence-based intervention needs to be a shared priority of the multi-disciplinary team. School psychologists play a vital role in clarifying the strengths and areas for support for students with learning difficulties and learning disorders. By working collaboratively with teachers and parents to develop effective instructional interventions, school psychologists become an integral part of the solution.