The Identification of Specific Learning Disabilities: A Summary of Research on Best Practices


Specific learning disability (SLD) is the most common eligibility category through which students receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In Texas alone, more than 150,000 students received special education services in the 2016–2017 school year due to an identified SLD (Texas Education Agency, 2017). The rules and procedures by which students are identified with SLD affect an even greater number of students. As a result, the validity of these rules and procedures for identification must be considered as not just a legal and scientific question, but also as a question of fairness and access. 

This report summarizes research on the identification of SLD and makes recommendations for practice. The report begins with a summary of the legal requirements for SLD identification and what constitutes a comprehensive evaluation. It then discusses the attributes of SLD according to different conceptual frameworks and reviews research on the reliability and validity of different methods for SLD identification that emanate from these frameworks. The report concludes with recommendations for best practice, regardless of the specific identification methods employed.


Fletcher, J. M., & Miciak, J. (2019). The identification of specific learning disabilities: A summary of research on best practices. Austin, TX: Texas Center for Learning Disabilities.