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WAIS-R subtest regroupings as predictors of employment success and failure among adults with learning disabilities.

Forty to over fifty percent of the learning disabled (LD) young adults who exit today's high schools fail to make a successful transition to employment (Will, 1984 and Sitlington, Frank & Carson, 1990). Their failure to move from school to successful employment and community living has become a critical concern of parents and policy makers (Johnson, Bruniniks & Turlow, 1987). Failure of the schools to prepare students with handicaps for work or post-secondary education was listed as a major area of dissatisfaction among parents in a recent evaluation of Special Education programs by Louis Harris and Associates, 1989.

Many LD adults experience difficulties in achieving their vocational goals (McCue, Shelly, & Goldstein, 1986). They manifest problems in making vocational choices, acquiring jobs, maintaining jobs, receiving promotions, and are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed than their peers who are not LD (Humes, 1986). Each year these jobless individuals join the 67 percent of all handicapped Americans who are unemployed (Rusch & Phelps, 1987). They become consumers of national resources rather than contributors to society. As Rusch & Phelps (1987) put it:

"The significant societal and personal costs associated with the underemployment and unemployment of these youth have raised the issue to the level of national priority. In all likelihood, employment will remain a national priority until considerably higher levels of employment, educational attainment, and successful community adjustments are realized." (p. 487)

The current research was designed to determine the value of Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (Wechsler, 1981) subtest regroupings in the identification of LD young adults who are likely to have difficulty making the transition from school to employment. The predictive value of WAIS-R subtest regroupings was examined because of the frequent inclusion of this instrument in the battery of tests used by rehabilitation agencies that provide services for adults with handicaps. This observation was confirmed by examining fifty referrals received from state vocational rehabilitation agencies by the Life Development Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. The Life Development Institute is a non-profit, post-secondary rehabilitation program for learning disabled adults. Nearly 900 clients referred by parents and rehabilitation agencies have been prepared by the Life Development Institute for independent living and employment in competitive settings during the last ten years.

Numerous attempts have been made to determine if various regroupings of WISC-R (Wechsler, 1974) subtest scaled scores can be used to identify learning disabled children (Bannatyne, 1974; Rugel, 1974; Kaufman, 1975; Smith, Coleman, Dokecki & Davis, 1974, and Vance & Singer, 1979). Cardoni, O'Donnel, Ramaniah, Kuntz & Rosenshein (1981) examined the WAIS profiles of learning disabled young adults. Their findings indicated that Bannatyne (1974) factor group differences observed in children and adolescents persist into early adulthood. Salvia, Gajar, Gajria & Salvia reported in 1988 that WAIS-R profiles of non-disabled and learning disabled college freshmen were largely indistinguishable.

The WAIS-R subtest regroupings examined in this study were selected from the WAIS-R Computer Report (Nicholson, 1982), a computerized WAIS-R data analysis and report preparation program and the research of Bannatyne (1968, 1971, 1974; Cohen, 1959; Kaufman, 1975, 1976, 1981; Lutey, 1977; Nicholson & Alcorn, 1980, 1985; Nicholson, 1990; Rugel, 1973; Smith, Coleman, Dokecki & Davis, 1977; Schiff, Kaufman and Kaufman, 1981, and Zimmerman & Woo-Sam, 1973). A listing of the subtests included in each of the regroupings examined is shown in Table 1.



The subjects examined in this study were LD adults who had exited the school system and were age 18 or older. Among the 18 to 30-year-olds, 37% were not diagnosed until they left high school. The population was drawn from three main sources: (1) clients enrolled in programs at the Life Development Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, (2) Arizona State University students with LD who were receiving services from the Office of Disabled Students, and (3) members of a Phoenix area support group for LD adults affiliated with the Learning Disabilities Association of Arizona. A small number of the adults with disabilities were referred by parents, other community members or by themselves for inclusion in this study.

The nature of the LD population made it impossible to select subjects randomly for inclusion in this study. This limitation should be considered when reading the results. Care should be taken to ensure that discussions of these findings are not overgeneralized when describing the LD adult population.

The subjects were adults (55 males and 31 females) identified or validated as being LD by one certified school psychologist. Criteria used to identify the subjects as LD were consistent with those defined by the National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities (Hammill, Leigh, Mc Nutt, & Larsen, 1981), and the U.S. Office of Education (1977).

The heterogeneous nature of these populations rendered use of a formula for identification questionable and made it necessary to rely heavily upon judgments related to the clinical match of subjects attributes with the criteria proposed by the National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities. Prior WAIS-R test data for the subjects were re-evaluated to verify the subjects' LD classification. Seventeen were college graduates, 30 were enrolled in college, and 39 were enrolled in a post-secondary-level training program for persons with LD who had failed to make a successful transition from school to employment. The age range for these subjects was 18 to 59 (mean = 26.7 years).

The population examined were primarily caucasian. The number of Afro-American, American-Indian, and Mexican-American subjects was too small to be examined as subgroups, or as a subgroup. The socioeconomic backgrounds of the subjects ranged from extreme poverty to substantial wealth. The lack of verifiable information about the subjects' backgrounds made it impossible to include this factor in the study. Their WAIS-R Verbal IQ scores ranged from 74 to 144 (mean = 98.4) and their Performance IQ scores ranged from 73 to 132 (mean = 95.7). Their Full Scale IQ's ranged from 74 to 140 with a mean of 96.8.


A detailed employment history was collected from each subject. This history included a chronology of the subject's work history with detailed notations for each job. This information was validated by a certified school psychologist during a clinical interview. The following factors were included in the work history.

1. Type of job. 2. Length of employment. 3. Hourly wage. 4. How the subject got the job. 5. Level of satisfaction with the job. 6. Reason the subject left the job.

These histories were used to identify the success levels of the subjects. The subjects were initially divided into four job success level groups: (1) sustained employment--same job for one year or more, or continuous employment for one year or more, or continuous employment for one year that involved job changes with advancement, (2) intermittent employment--employed on several jobs for three months with the longest employment period less than one year, (3) chronically unemployed--those who held from 1 to 15 jobs with the longest employment period being less than three months, and (4) those who had never been employed. Following further inspection of the subjects' employment histories, groups 1 and 2 were combined to create a group referred to as successfully employed. Groups 3 and 4 were combined to create a group of subjects described as not successfully employed. Subjects without current WAIS-R scores were tested.

Data Analysis:

The microcomputer version of SPSS+ (Norusis, 1986) was used to analyze the data. A two-group discriminant function analysis was used to determine the extent to which WAIS-R subtest regrouping variables were useful in correctly predicting membership in the successful and unsuccessful LD adult groups.


All of the regroupings with the exception of the four with the lowest F-ratios discriminated between the successful and unsuccessful subjects at a .05 or greater level. The six subtest regroupings with the highest F-ratios discriminated between successful and unsuccessful learning disabled adults at a .0001 or greater level.

These regroupings included: (1) fund of information/long-term memory/richness of environment (IN + VO/2), (2) verbal concept formation/degree of abstract thinking (SI + VO/2), (3) Lutey's 1977 adaptability and employability grouping (CO + SI + BD/3), (4) memory (IN + AR + DS/3), (5) cultural opportunities (IN + VO + CO + PA/4), and (6) extent of reading and interests (IN + SI + VO/3). Seventeen of the twenty-four regroupings discriminated between these subjects at a greater than .01 level.

The discriminant analysis equation for two groups (successful and unsuccessful) of learning disabled adults on the twenty-four WAIS-R subtest regroupings correctly predicted group membership with 83.53% accuracy.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Significant relationships were identified between 20 of the 24 WAIS-R stubtest regroupings examined and job success. The regrouping for "Fund of Information/Long-Term Memory/Richness of Environment" was the best predictor of group membership followed by "Verbal Concept Formation/Degree of Abstract Thinking." Lutey (1977) and Schofield and Kunce's (1971) "Adaptability and Employability" regroupings both distinguished between successful and unsuccessful LD adults at a significant level. Use of WAIS-R subtest regroupings was effective in distinguishing between the successful and unsuccessful members of this LD adult population. It is recommended that examination of highly predictive stubtest regroupings be included among factors which counselors examine during attempts to predict the employability of their learning disabled clients.

This research was funded by the National Institute for Handicapped Research, Grant Number G00843057 CFDA: 84:13M.


Larry A. Faas, Professor of Special Education and Assistant Director of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287


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Title Annotation:Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
Author:Faas, Larry A.
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Previous Article:Normal personality and adults with learning disabilities: rehabilitation counseling implications.
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