Differences in social competence among subtypes of students with learning disabilities

Eileen Rose McDonald, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to determine whether a neuropsychological subtyping model would assist in identifying social competence deficits in a school-based population of students with learning disabilities. The relationship between abilities in areas traditionally evaluated and social functioning was analyzed. To date, most researchers have compared the entire learning disabled population to the nondisabled, using a contrasting groups methodology. This approach has been criticized for its failure to describe the range of functioning within the LD population. The method of choice for describing this heterogeneous group is the neuropsychological subtyping model. In the current study, students' scores on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) were analyzed, forming subgroups through the use of clinical-inferential and cluster-analytic techniques. The emergent subgroups were validated through discriminant function analysis, as well as through comparison to subtypes reported. Subgroup differences were found on the WISC-R with five subtypes generated by each of the two methods. Low Verbal Comprehension and Low Perceptual Organization groups were found with both techniques. Three additional groups were found which differed across methodologies. The subgroups were validated against external measures not used to form the original subtypes: the Wide Range Achievement Scale-Revised and the Social Skills Rating System-Teacher Version, using ANOVA and MANOVA designs. Post hoc testing found differences between several pairs of groups in academic functioning. Two subgroups showed differences in social skills, due in most part to language factors. The current study demonstrates methodological advancements in terms of the use of the split-sample reliability technique for both initial subgroup formation and classification of cases subsequent to discriminant function analysis. Another advancement was the comparison of the two techniques as they simultaneously operated on the sample, a method seldom described in the research. Suggestions for future research are inclusion of youngsters with severe deficits and those with neurological dysfunction to increase the range of variability in the sample, use of increased numbers of assessment measures, direct subtyping using academic and social competence measures, and use of a severity model along with the neuropsychological patterns to identify youngsters with learning disabilities who are vulnerable to social failure.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Special education

Recommended Citation

McDonald, Eileen Rose, "Differences in social competence among subtypes of students with learning disabilities" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511237.