Cognitive Referencing

What is cognitive referencing?

Cognitive referencing is the practice of comparing Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scores and language scores as a factor for determining eligibility for speech-language intervention. It is based on the assumption that language functioning cannot surpass cognitive levels. However, according to research, some language abilities may in fact surpass cognitive levels. Therefore, ASHA does not support the use of cognitive referencing as a practice to find students with Intellectual Disabilities ineligible for speech and language services in schools.

Ireland and Conrad (2016) note that the use of cognitive referencing is not supported by many states:

IDEA does not require a significant discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for a student to be found eligible for speech therapy. The use of cognitive referencing within an organization to determine eligibility for speech-language services is inconsistent with IDEA's requirement to determine services based on individual needs.

Eligibility for speech and language services should not be based on a discrepancy between cognition and communication abilities. Rather, eligibility criteria should be determined by individual communication needs.

ASHA Practice Policy

Admission/Discharge Criteria in Speech-Language Pathology

National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities

Access to Communication Services and Supports: Concerns Regarding the Application of Restrictive "Eligibility" Policies, Position Statement and Technical Report

Articles from ASHA Journals

ASHA Resources

ASHA Corporate Partners