Guidelines for Documenting a Learning Disability

 

Jefferson Community College students, either incoming or enrolled, who believe they may be eligible to receive accommodation(s) based on a diagnosed, specific learning disability must submit written documentation (PDF) to verify their eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).

The following guidelines are intended to help define the type of information needed to substantiate eligibility and to support reasonable requests for accommodation(s). According to the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, learning disability is “a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions…or environmental influences…it is not the direct result of those conditions or influences.”

Reasonable accommodation is an effort on the part of the College to provide equal access to its programs and services while maintaining the essential nature of the College’s instructional programs. Accommodation(s) is determined on an individual basis as substantiated by diagnosis and impact to major life functions. Documentation review, accommodation(s), and student support are provided through the Scanlon Learning and Success Center Disability Specialist. An IEP or 504 Plan is not a diagnostic tool; it is a guideline that is used to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodation(s).

Evaluator Qualifications

The professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, or neuropsychologist) conducting assessments, rendering diagnoses of specific learning disabilities, and recommending reasonable and appropriate accommodations should be qualified to do so. The name, title, and professional credentials of the clinician, as well as information about his or her licenses or certifications, area of specialization, and location of employment or practice, should be included in the documentation. In addition, the evaluator should not be related by blood or marriage to the student being evaluated.

Timeliness of Testing

The purpose of testing is to determine a student’s current level of function and need for accommodation. Evaluation should be normed against the current age group of the student and be completed after the age of 16.5. Also, the testing should be current (within 3–5 years).

Diagnosis and Reporting Criteria

The neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation should be comprehensive and should provide clear and specific evidence that a learning disability exists. The clinician should also use direct language in the diagnosis and an explanation for recommended accommodation(s). The clinician should also include the DSM-IV diagnosis.

A diagnosis for a specific learning disability will, therefore, be based on the results of a full battery of tests (abbreviated forms are not accepted), not the results of any one test or subtest. Standard scores and/or percentiles should be provided for all normed measures, including subtests. Grade equivalents are not appropriate unless accompanied by standard scores and/or percentiles. Terms such as “individual learning styles,” “learning differences,” “academic problems,” and “test difficulty or anxiety” do not substantiate a disability. Terminology such as “suggests” or “is indicative of” should also be avoided since they do not directly suggest limitations to a major life function.

At a minimum, three domains of function should be addressed. The domains and appropriate testing instruments are as follows:

Aptitude

The preferred instruments are either the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Revised (WAIS-R) or the WAIS-IV. Results from either tool should include subtest scores. The Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised: Test of Cognitive Ability and the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: Fourth Edition are acceptable.

The Slosson Intelligence Test-Revised and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT) are not acceptable.

Also, the WAIS-III will only be accepted until December 31, 2010. After that date, the WAIS-IV is required.

Academic Achievement

Current levels of functioning in reading, mathematics, and written language should be assessed. The Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA); the Stanford Test of Academic Skills; the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised: Tests of Achievement; the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT); or specific achievement tests such as the Nelson-Denny Reading Skills Test, the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test, the Test of Written Language-3 (TOWL-3), or the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised are acceptable instruments.

The Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), any version, is not acceptable as a measure of achievement.

Information Processing

Specific areas of information processing (short and long-term memory; sequential memory; auditory and visual perception/processing; and processing speed) should be assessed. Information from subtests on the WAIS-R and the Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised: Tests of Cognitive Ability is acceptable.

The preceding recommendations are not exhaustive and should not restrict assessment in other relevant areas such as vocational interests and aptitudes. Additionally, a diagnostic interview should also be conducted at the time of testing by the qualified evaluator to address relevant historical and background information as well as any dual diagnoses.

Requested Accommodation(s)In order for services to be provided at the college level, specific requests for accommodation(s) must be made. An explanation for each recommended accommodation and its relationship to substantiating evidence should be included.

For additional information, please consult the Jefferson Community College Catalog for sections addressing disability policy and disabled student services. If you need further clarification of, or have questions in regard to, these guidelines, please contact Tanya Hoistion, Disability Specialist, in the Scanlon Learning and Success Center, at 315-786-2335 or thoistion@sunyjefferson.edu, Jules Center, Room 6-202.

The Disability Specialist is the College’s approved person for deciding reasonable and appropriate accommodation based on the documentation recommendation, the disability, and the essential skill for each course. Accommodations are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Individuals with concerns about the evaluation process or the accommodations provided by the College may seek assistance, review, and appeal through Jefferson’s ADAAA/504 Compliance Officer, at 315-786-2401, Lansing Building, room 1-109.