Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Personality Not Intelligence or Educational Achievement Differentiate University Students Who Access Special Needs for "Learning Disabilities"

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Personality Not Intelligence or Educational Achievement Differentiate University Students Who Access Special Needs for "Learning Disabilities"

Article excerpt

University students who had been referred over a three year period from a special needs office because of putative learning disabilities were compared to randomly selected cohorts. There was no evidence of learning disabilities. Standardized scores for intelligence memory and educational achievement were all within the average range for both groups. Although there was no evidence of significant psychopathology in either group, the special needs group was significantly more immature, dependent, attention seeking and emotionally sensitive than the reference group. Only four of these variables were required to classify accurately 94% of all of the students (canonical correlation = 0.82). The results indicated that standardized normreferenced assessment is essential to determine the actual etiologies for university students who request "special needs" because of putative learning disabilities. Implications of strategies for counselling these students are discussed.

Professionals responsible for pedagogical opportunity have attempted to accommodate the specific needs of individuals who wish to attend university or college. Students can access special needs offices whose personnel attempt to facilitate their success within academic contexts. Claims of a learning disability, which are frequently employed to rationalize additional time to complete examinations, appear to have increased within the last decade. Strategies from which counselling psychologists design interventions for these students presume construct validity. The results of this experiment suggest that the etiology of many of the honest claims of learning disability by university students may not involve this behavioral domain.

The definition of learning disability, which has been applied traditionally to children and to adolescents whose educational achievement was two or more years below their intellectual level, becomes nebulous within post-secondary education. Discrepancies of more than one standard deviation between the student's intelligence and educational achievement (as defined by the Wide Range Achievement Test) have been considered indicative of a learning disability (Bigler, 1992). However there are other possible etiologies. Such discrepancies could reflect failures to acquire information because of the selection of inappropriate high school courses rather than the existence of intrinsic learning anomalies. The variables that determine students' requests for exceptions or exemptions because of special needs (such as additional hours for examinations or different formats of evaluation) are not clear. Beliefs that a student has a learning disability or requires special needs are not necessarily a proof of their existence. This experiment was designed to determine if: 1) empirical differences actually existed within a population of students who were referred because of "learning problems" and 2) specific factors, such as intelligence, memory capacity, educational achievement, or personality variables, could differentiate the students who access these services from those who do not.



A total of 35 university students (19 men; 12 women), 18 to 27 years of age (M = 20, SD = 1.6) served as subjects. The clinical group was composed of 16 university students ( 10 men and 6 women) who had been referred consecutively over a three year period for psychometric assessment because they or the referring agency suspected a learning disability or believed they required special needs. The reference (control) group consisted of 19 (13 men and 6 women) university students who were randomly selected from a first year psychology class (n = 70) to receive the same assessment. Chi-squared analysis [(df = 1) = 0.15, p >. OS] indicated no significant disconcordance between the proportion of men and women within the two groups.


Each subject was administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R), the Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS), the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRATR-2), the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory- 168 (Vincent, et al. …

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