Office of Student Affairs

Guidelines for Documentation of a Learning Disability

 In accordance with the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Amherst College provides to students with documented disabilities those reasonable accommodations needed to ensure equal access to the programs and activities of the College. In order for a student to be eligible for coverage under Section 504 or the ADA, the student must be shown to have a physical or mental impairment that imposes a substantial limitation on a major life activity. A student who requests auxiliary aids, support services, academic modifications and/or other accommodations on the basis of a disability is required to submit appropriate professional documentation supporting the legitimacy of the request. In particular, documentation submitted in support of accommodation requests based on a learning disability must comply with the following guidelines:

Diagnosis Clearly Stated

Documentation should state the specific learning disorder as diagnosed. The diagnosis should be made by someone with appropriate professional credentials, should be specific, and should reference the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 or whichever edition was current at the time of diagnosis).

Information Current

Because disabilities change over time, documentation must be up to date. In most learning disorder cases, the educational evaluation and testing should be no more than five years old. Cognitive testing may be older than five years, but testing performed before third grade may not provide a valid indication of the student’s current ability.

History Presented

Provide relevant educational, developmental, and medical history in support of the diagnosis and the functional limitation. Information about the student’s history of receiving school accommodations and current use of accommodations is helpful.

Diagnosis Supported

Documentation should describe the comprehensive testing and techniques used to arrive at the specific learning disorder diagnosis. Provide the evaluator’s full report, including the following:

  • A summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis
  • A narrative summary of the evaluation results
  • Test results with subtest scores (standard or scaled scores)

Tests used to diagnose learning disorders should be: 

  • Comprehensive cognitive and academic assessments
  • Individually administered
  • Nationally normed
  • Administered under standardized conditions

In addition, testing should include the following:

  • Both timed and untimed/standard time measures, if extended time is requested
  • Test of written expression if a computer is requested
  • Measure of symptom validity

Functional Limitation Described

Explain how the learning disorder impacts the student’s daily functioning and ability.  For example, does the student work more slowly than other students? Is the student able to read the test? Write an essay?

Functional limitation can be documented in a variety of ways:

  • Psychoeducational evaluations, including both test scores and narrative.
  • Standardized test scores, including standard and scaled scores. Use national norms to support both the diagnosis and functional limitation.
  • Summary of the student's developmental, educational, and/or medical history.

Professional Credentials Listed

Establish the evaluator’s professional credentials. Most learning disorders are diagnosed by psychologists or learning specialists. Evaluators must be authorized by the state in which they practice to administer the necessary tests and to diagnose learning disorders.