WJ III, WJ IV Oral Language/Achievement Discrepancy Procedure

Posted on April 04, 2014

One of the diagnostic criteria for children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a “qualitative impairment in social interaction.”  These social deficits reach well beyond forgetting to say “hello” to someone or to say “excuse me” instead of pushing past people.  They reflect a difference in the way these individuals think about and view the world around them.  They don’t know how to think socially. This lack of social thinking not only impacts behavior, medical but can have a serious affect on academic skills.

Impact of Social Deficits on Reading

Commonly a student with high functioning ASD may easily learn how to read and decode words but then struggle to understand the meaning of the text.  It may be easy for the student to state names of people in the story, visit this site explain where the story took place and give very specific details about certain events.  However, the student with high functioning ASD may have no clue why the main character behaved a certain way and they may not understand the emotions the various characters experience.  This happens because the student with high functioning ASD struggles with perspective taking.  The student may not connect himself to the character or understand how certain behavior impacts other people’s behavior.  For example, one student I was working with read a story about a boy who was in a race.  The story never said who won or lost but the boy was sad and crying at the end.  My student was unable to infer that the child must have lost the race.

Teaching Reading with a Social Perspective

When teaching reading, I teach with a social-thinking approach.  For example, if I am reading a picture book I will stop and break down the emotion the character is feeling.  For example, if the character is feeling scared I will say, “The mouth is wide open, eyebrows are raised, eyes are open wide, hands are in the air.  She is feeling “scared.”  Then I will talk to the children and help them figure out why the child is scared.  I often refer to the eyes and draw an “invisible” arrow to what the character is looking at for a clue.  Sometimes I will also draw out a situation from a story, especially if it is in a chapter book, and use talking and thinking bubbles in order to show the correlation between what was said and done to the behavior and emotions of the characters.  I have found that doing this increases the child’s comprehension skill more successfully than using practice comprehension passages.  As a nice side benefit, sometimes the child’s behavior also improves along with inferential understanding.

Impact of Social Deficits on Writing

The act of writing a story also requires social understanding.  Often it is a struggle for a child with high functioning ASD to understand that people cannot read minds.  Years ago I worked with a child who struggled with this idea. When he finally understood that I could not read his mind, he threw himself down to the floor and cried, “but it is so much easier!” [to read others’ minds].  I had to admit that I agreed that it would be much easier to read others’ minds rather than to verbally express our thoughts!  But since people cannot read each other’s minds, a writer has to try to take the perspective of the potential reader and create a story with details so that the reader can understand what the writer is trying to convey.  Without this understanding, children with ASD may compose a piece such as “I had fun.  I ate.  It was good.  Run.  Weee!” which leaves you with no idea of where the child went, what was fun or where the running came into play.  Because children with ASD tend to struggle with organization in writing, it can be addressed through the use of graphic organizers. Nevertheless, social deficits hampers writing progress.

Teaching Writing with a Social Perspective

When teaching writing, one of the first things I work on is teaching the children with ASD how to describe something without saying what it is.  I put an object in a bag and have one of the children come to the front of the room and give characteristics of the item without saying what the item is.  This is usually extremely hard for them to do.  The other children then have to try to guess what it is and it becomes a fun game.  I then have the students write descriptive stories about objects such as “oobleck” and explain where they think they came from.  One favorite activity is when I give each child a Hershey’s kiss and tell them that they are all aliens and that they have to describe the object without using the words “chocolate,” “Hershey,” or “kiss.”  Additionally, I have my student’s write about experiences we have such as completing an art or cooking project or a field trip we went on.  Each week I then have the children sit in the “author’s chair” and read their writing.  I allow the children who are listening to ask questions about the story.  I do this so that the writer can see how the lack of information leaves the reader with questions.


The impact of poor social skills on academics is often overlooked.  Typically, social skills programs and curricula focus on discrete social skills, which are isolated from academic learning. However, deficits in social skills, particularly perspective-taking skills, can significantly hamper academic progress. By addressing academics through a social approach, not only are you working on students’ social deficits but also improving academic development.

Author: Jennifer Fletcher, Alpine School District


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WJ III/WJ IV Oral Language/Achievement Discrepancy Procedure

• Useful for ruling in or ruling out oral language as a major contributing cause of academic failure in reading/written expression

• Compares oral language ability with specific reading/written expression cluster scores

• Administer WJ III Oral Language Cluster subtests (# 3, buy 4, tadalafil 14, pharm 15 in achievement battery)

• Administer selected WJ III Achievement Cluster subtests (Basic Reading, Reading Comprehension, Written Expression…)

• Activate by clicking on Oral Language/Achievement box under “Select Discrepancy Procedures” in Compuscore menu

• On the Compuscore report, examine the oral language/Achievement Discrepancy information for significance


In the example above, the Actual score represents the student’s standard score obtained for that Achievement Cluster. The Predicted score is a weighted standard score from the Oral Language Extended Cluster (subtests 3, 4, 14, 15) for that students age +- 1 month. The Difference score is the number of standard score points between the actual and predicted, higher or lower. The Discrepancy PR is the percentile rank of students the same age as the subject student, who evidenced a similar discrepancy in the norming sample. The SD column represents the standard deviation discrepancy between the predicted and actual scores. The Significance column indicates whether the discrepancy is statistically significant at the 1.5 sd level. Note that both negative discrepancies (student is performing lower than predicted level) and positive discrepancies (student is performing higher than expected) are represented.

If the Actual Score (Actual Achievement Cluster) is significantly higher than the Predicted Score (Oral Language prediction), then the focus on intervention and instruction must include oral language. Increasing a student’s oral language abilities should have a positive effect on achievement skills (reading/written expression). Consultation with a speech-language pathologist is indicated.

If the Predicted Score (Oral Language prediction), is significantly higher than the Actual Score (Actual Achievement Cluster), the focus on intervention and instruction should be on the achievement area (reading…), but with scrutiny and consideration after examining implications of significant weaknesses in basic psychological processes.

WJ III Oral Language Tests, from most complex (top) to less complex (bottom)

Author: Michael Herbert, UPDC, www.updc.org, 801-231-3876, michaelhupdc@gmail.com