Documentation of Specific Learning Disabilities

The following guidelines are provided in the interest of assuring that documentation is appropriate to verify eligibility and to support requests for reasonable accommodations, adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids and services on the basis of a learning disability that currently substantially limits one or more major life activities. Students are responsible for the costs associated with obtaining documentation.

1.  Testing should be comprehensive. It is not acceptable to administer only one test for the purpose of diagnosis. Minimally, domains to be addressed should include (but are not limited to):

a.   Aptitude. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (current edition) with subtest scores (Canadian diagnosticians may substitute percentile ranks) is the preferred instrument. The Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised: Tests of Cognitive Ability or the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: (current edition) are acceptable.

b.   Achievement. Current levels of functioning in reading, mathematics and written language are required. Acceptable instruments include the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery – Revised: Tests of Achievement; Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT); Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK); Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA; or specific achievement tests such as the Test of Written Language- 2 (TOWL-2), Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests – Revised, the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test, the the Nelson-Denny Reading Test. The Wide Range Achievement Test-3 (WRAT-3) is NOT a comprehensive measure of achievement and therefore is not suitable as the sole measure of achievement, but may be used in conjunction with other measures.

c.   Information Processing. Specific areas of information processing (e.g., short- and long-term memory; sequential memory; auditory and visual perception/processing; processing speed) should be assessed. Information from subtests of the WAIS (current edition) or clusters on the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability as well as other suitable instruments (e.g., Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-III) may be used to address these areas.

NOTE: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list or to restrict assessment in other pertinent and helpful areas such as vocational interests and aptitudes. Students seeking foreign language substitutions should be administered the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT).

2.  Testing should be current. In most cases, this means testing that utilizes adult-level measures and has been conducted within the past five years. Because the provision of all reasonable accommodations and services is based upon assessment of the current impact of the student’s disabilities on his/her academic performance, it is in a student’s best interest to provide recent and relevant documentation.

3.  There should be clear and specific evidence and identification of a learning disability. Individual “learning styles” and “learning differences” in and of themselves do not constitute a learning disability.

4.  Actual test scores should be provided. Standard scores and/or percentiles are acceptable; grade equivalents are NOT acceptable unless standard scores and/or percentiles are also included. The assessment should show evidence of discrepancies and intra-individual differences that result in substantial functional limitation(s) to learning.

5.  Professionals conducting assessment and rendering diagnoses of specific learning disabilities should be qualified to do so. Generally, professionals recognized as being qualified to make a diagnosis of learning disability are psychologist trained in either psychological, neuropsychological, or psychoeducational assessments, psychiatrists, or learning disabilities specialists with similar training and credentials. Diagnostic reports should include the names, titles, and professional credentials of the evaluator(s) as well as the date(s) of testing. The diagnostician should be impartial and not a family member.

6.  Tests used to document eligibility should be technically sound (i.e. statistically reliable and valid) and standardized for use with an adult population.

7.  A written summary of background information about the student’s educational, medical, and family histories that relate to the learning disability should be included.

8.  It is helpful to include a description of any accommodation and/or auxiliary aid that has been used at the secondary or postsecondary level. Information about the specific conditions under which the accommodation was used (e.g., standardized testing, final exams) and whether or not it assisted the student is also useful in determining appropriate accommodations for the student.

Learning disabilities are generally considered a psychoeducational or neurological diagnosis. Generally, individuals qualified to render a diagnosis for the disorder are practitioners who have been trained in the assessment of learning disabilities and are experienced in assessing the needs of adult learners. Recommended practitioners may include neurologists, licensed clinical or education psychologists including school psychologists, or a combination of such professionals. The diagnostician should be impartial and not a family member. Further assessment by an appropriate professional may be required if co-morbid psychological disabilities are indicated.

Page modified 3/5/10