Date of Submission
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology
Lisa A Hain, PsyD, Chairperson
Terri Erbacher, PhD
Edward S Kardell, PsyD
Our current education system uses a global method that does very little to address the concurrent cognitive, academic and social-emotional needs of the special education student. By using a single analysis, we fail to address specific deficits, including comorbidity of cognitive, academic, and socio-emotional deficits. Generalized assessments do little to address the source of the student’s problems. If these comorbid learning and social-emotional problems are addressed early on, this might reduce the incidence of antisocial and/or delinquent behaviors and lead to greater academic success. In an attempt to further investigate the relationships between academic, (i.e., reading) and emotional/behavioral systems, the current study explored cognitive subtypes through hierarchical cluster analysis of Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children 4th Edition (WISC-IV) standardized subtests, educational achievement assessed through analysis of the Woodcock Johnson III (WJIII) and emotional and behavioral functioning assessed through Behavior Assessment System for Children 2nd Edition (BASC-2 TRF) teacher ratings. Six cognitive subtypes were identified and differentiated across cognitive, academic, psychosocial, and disciplinary variables. Statistically significant group differences were found. The Crystallized Language subgroup emerged as having relatively lower Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) and Word Attack scores with a global psychopathology, including the highest rate of the externalizing behavior of aggression in concert with the lowest anxiety and the highest rates of truancy, suspensions and arrest out of all the subgroups. As for the other subgroups, the Executive/ Working Memory subgroup had lower cognitive and academic ability with increased depression and a slight elevation in truancy and arrests. The Cognitively Impaired and Visual Spatial/Constructional subgroups demonstrated severe cognitive and academic deficits and experienced global emotional/behavior dysfunction, with high rates of truancy and arrest, respectively. The Auditory/Verbal subgroup showed commensurate lower cognitive and academic deficits with externalizing problems and overall global emotional/behavioral deficits with a history of truancy noted. The High Functioning/Processing Speed subgroup showed no cognitive/academic concerns, but did demonstrate increased anxiety with no positive disciplinary history noted. This study demonstrates the need for more accurate identification of the special education student as a whole being, incorporating each facet of cognitive, academic and comorbid social/emotional deficits. If specific deficits are identified, more targeted interventions would help practitioners to teach and offer social/emotional supports. Effectively diagnosing a complex and unique cognitive academic and social emotional makeup will certainly provide a springboard for academic success, which may ultimately reduce antisocial and/or criminal behaviors and improve society for future generations. Future research could benefit from investigation using current assessments with more standardized employment and collection of data on disciplinary actions.
Loughman Fortuna, Victoria, "An Examination of the Comorbidity between Externalizing Disorders and Reading Disabilities in School-Age Boys" (2012). PCOM Psychology Dissertations. 236.