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Requirements for Documentation of a Learning Disability
Requirements for Documentation of a Learning Disability (LD)
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:
1. Documentation must be prepared by a qualified professional. Professionals conducting the assessment, rendering the diagnosis and recommending accommodations must have specialized training and relevant experience in the field of adolescent / adult learning disabilities. The name, title, professional credentials, license or certification, area of specialization, and professional employment of the evaluator must be stated. All reports must be on professional letterhead, typed, dated and signed.
2. Documentation must be current. While the presence of a learning disability may be considered a life-long condition, the severity of its manifestations may change over time. Because reasonable accommodation must reflect the student’s current level of impairment and the current impact of the learning disability on academic performance in a relevant educational setting, all documentation must be recent i.e., based on an evaluation completed or updated no more than three years prior to the request for accommodation.
3. Documentation must be comprehensive. The documentation should present information gathered through a comprehensive assessment based on interview, observation, testing, and experienced professional judgment. Documentation should include: a description of the individual’s presenting problems and their development history; a summary of educational/academic history; a detailed reporting and analysis of scores from relevant neuropsychological or psychoeducational testing; a professional diagnosis; and an interpretive summary. In particular, with respect to testing, the documentation should report and interpret all subtest scores (in standard and percentile form) from a comprehensive collection of standardized tests addressing the following areas:
• Aptitude / cognitive ability: assessment of intellectual capabilities (i.e., WAIS-R);
• Academic achievement: assessment of current levels of academic functioning in relevant areas, including reading (decoding, rate, and comprehension) mathematics, and written language;
• Information processing: assessment of specific information processing, including short-term and long-term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual perception, processing speed.
The diagnostician’s interpretation of the subtest results must identify and discuss specific score discrepancies that reveal significant functional impairments.
4. Documentation must include a specific diagnosis. The documentation must explicitly state whether a learning disability does or does not exist, must definitively identify the specific type of learning disability diagnosed, and must specify which elements of objective evidence confirm that a learning disability is present. Phrases such as “learning differences” or “differing learning styles” are not considered to be an adequately specific diagnosis of a learning disability.
5. Documentation must provide relevant academic interpretations and recommendations. The documentation must include: an interpretive discussion of how the student’s specific learning disability poses a substantial limitation to current academic functioning; specific recommendations for auxiliary aids, support services, academic modifications and/or other accommodations to address those functional limitations; and a detailed explanation as to how the effects of the student's specific learning disability are mediated by the suggested accommodations.
Adapted from Policy Statement for Documentation of Learning Disability in Adolescents and Adults, January 1998, Office of Disability Policy, Educational Testing Services, Princeton, N.J. 08541 and Guidelines for Documentation of a Learning Disability in Adolescents and Adults, July 1997, Association on Higher Education and Disability.