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National Center for Special Education Research


Preschoolers with Disabilities: Characteristics, Services, and Results:

NCSER 2006-3003
May 2008

School-Related Readiness and Behavior

  • Overall, preschoolers with disabilities who participated in the direct assessment performed close to the population mean on the Woodcock-Johnson III: Letter-Word Identification. Children identified as having autism, a speech or language impairment, or an other health impairment had scores above the population mean. These results varied significantly by age, with older children performing significantly higher than younger children. They also varied by race/ethnicity, with White children scoring higher than Black or Hispanic children. Children in the lowest household income group ($20,000 or less) scored significantly lower than children in all other income groups.
  • Overall, preschoolers with disabilities who participated in the direct assessment performed within one standard deviation of the population mean on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT), with a mean score of 90.1. However, mean scores ranged from a low of 69.9 for children identified as having mental retardation to a high of 94.6 for children identified as having an emotional disturbance. Significant differences also occurred by race/ethnicity and income.
  • The mean performance of 90.3 for preschoolers with disabilities on the Woodcock-Johnson III: Applied Problems test was within a standard deviation of the population mean. That was the case for children identified as having a speech or language impairment (M = 96.4), an emotional disturbance (M = 94.9), or an orthopedic impairment (M = 91.1). Children identified as having mental retardation had a mean score more than two standard deviations below the population mean (M = 60.6). Scores for Black and Hispanic children were more than one standard deviation below the population mean; that was also the case for children in the lowest income group.
  • Children with disabilities in age Cohort C had a mean score of 91.2 on the Woodcock-Johnson III: Quantitative Concepts subtest. This subtest was given to children in Cohort C only, because norms are only available for children 5 and older. Scores ranged from a low of 78.5 for children identified as having mental retardation to a high of 95.6 for children identified as having a speech or language impairment. Children in all racial/ethnic and income groups scored within one standard deviation of the population mean.
  • Teacher ratings on the Preschool and Kindergarten Behavior Scales (PKBS-2) – Social Skills scale suggested that the social skills of children with disabilities fell well within one standard deviation of the population mean; however, older children scored significantly higher than younger children. Mean scores for children identified as having autism and children identified as having mental retardation were significantly lower than mean scores for children identified as having other disabilities. Females had significantly higher social skill scores than males. Significant differences also occurred by race/ethnicity.
  • Teacher ratings on the PKBS-2 – Problem Behaviors scale revealed that, overall, children with disabilities performed within one standard deviation of the population mean on problem behavior. Ratings for children identified as having an emotional disturbance or autism were high, indicating many problem behaviors; ratings for children identified as having an orthopedic impairment or a speech or language impairment were low, indicating fewer problem behaviors. Males had significantly more problem behavior than females, and Black children had higher ratings than Hispanic or White children. Differences by income group were also significant.
  • The mean rating for kindergarteners with disabilities in Cohort C on the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System II (ABAS-II) Self-Care scale, which measures each child's basic personal care skills, was 8.1, which fell in the lower half of a 20-point scale. Children with disabilities in Cohorts A and B, who were in early childhood programs (not yet in kindergarten), had a mean rating of 8.6. Children identified as having an orthopedic impairment had a mean of 5.2; children identified as having a speech or language impairment had a mean of 10.0.
  • The mean rating for kindergarteners with disabilities in Cohort C on the ABAS-II Self-Direction scale, which assesses each child's skills in self-control and personal responsibility, was 8.2. Ratings across disability categories ranged from a mean of 7.0 for children identified as having autism to 10.5 for children identified as having a speech or language impairment. Ratings for White preschoolers were significantly higher than those for Black children. Significant differences also occurred by income group.
  • Overall, children with disabilities had a mean score of 94.3 on the Motor Skills subscale of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Mean scores for children identified as having an orthopedic impairment (72.5), an other health impairment (76.0), a low-incidence disability (81.0; e.g., visual impairment or traumatic brain injury), or mental retardation (68.0) were more than one standard deviation below the mean.

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