Should schools expect poor physical and mental health, social adjustment, and participation outcomes in students with disability?


The literature on whether students with disabilities have worse physical and mental health, social adjustment, and participation outcomes when compared to their peers without disabilities is largely inconclusive. While the majority of case control studies showed significantly worse outcomes for students with disabilities; the proportion of variance accounted for is rarely reported. The current study used a population cross-sectional approach to determine the classification ability of commonly used screening and outcome measures in determining the disability status. Furthermore, the study aimed to identify the variables, if any, that best predicted the presence of disability. Results of univariate discriminant function analyses suggest that across the board, the sensitivity of the outcome/screening tools to correctly identify students with a disability was 31.9% higher than the related Positive Predictive Value (PPV). The lower PPV and Positive Likelihood Ratio (LR+) scores suggest that the included measures had limited discriminant ability (17.6% to 40.3%) in accurately identifying students at-risk for further assessment. Results of multivariate analyses suggested that poor health and hyperactivity increased the odds of having a disability about two to three times, while poor close perceived friendship and academic competences predicted disability with roughly the same magnitude. Overall, the findings of the current study highlight the need for researchers and clinicians to familiarize themselves with the psychometric properties of measures, and be cautious in matching the function of the measures with their research and clinical needs.