Pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses

A Pattern of Strength and Weaknesses (PSW) is one of the three methods school districts are allowed to use when determining a student’s eligibility under the Specific Learning Disability (SLD) category. Districts have been allowed to use PSW as one of their models for SLD eligibility since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004.


Although there are various versions of PSW models, there are important common features across these models. These features include:

  • Requiring both an academic and a processing deficit

  • Requiring some degree of cognitive function that is at or above average

  • Requiring research-based consistency between the academic and processing deficits

  • Using a cross-battery assessment approach to evaluate all core cognitive processing areas

  • Ruling out exclusionary factors


There are many advantages to using PSW over other models to determine eligibility for a Specific Learning Disability. These advantages include:

  • Having a comprehensive assessment of a student’s academic and cognitive processing skills

  • Increasing efficiency in testing by eliminating unnecessary overtesting in some cognitive processing areas and undertesting in other areas

  • Having a solid theoretical and research-based framework when tying assessment results to classroom performance

  • Making instructional recommendations that are directly tied to the student’s profile of strengths and weaknesses

  • Having the support of the California Association of School Psychologists and being considered to be the most defensible model currently available for determining SLD eligibility (California Association of School Psychologists, 2014; Christo et al., 2017)


Dr. Limones has been helping school districts become well-versed in PSW and transitioning to this framework for SLD eligibility since 2014. The range of services offered includes consultation and training on various PSW models and cross-battery assessment, conducting PSW pilots prior to implementation, intensive coaching and case consultation prior to and during PSW implementation, and performing data collection and analysis during piloting and/or implementation (e.g., Limones et al., 2016). She has worked with several districts including:

  • Alameda Unified School District

  • Albany Unified School District

  • Berkeley Unified School District

  • Emery Unified School District

  • Piedmont Unified School District

  • San Francisco Unified School District