Guidelines for Documentation of a Learning Disability
At Sarah Lawrence College, students who request accommodations for a disability are required to submit documentation to verify eligibility under Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). These guidelines are provided in the interest of assuring that evaluation reports are appropriate for documenting eligibility for students who seek accommodations and services for a learning disability.
I. Testing must be comprehensive.
A comprehensive assessment battery and the resulting diagnostic report must include a clinical interview and assessments of aptitude, academic achievement and information processing. The evaluation must provide clear and specific evidence that a learning disability does or does not exist. Any diagnosis must be based on a comprehensive assessment battery that does not rely on any one test or subtest. Test scores and data must be included. (This is not intended to be an exhaustive list or to restrict assessment in other pertinent and helpful areas such as career interests and aptitudes.)
Aptitude: The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third Edition (WAIS-III) with subtest scores is the preferred instrument. The Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery-III: Test of Cognitive Ability and the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Fifth Edition are also acceptable.
Achievement: Current levels of academic functioning in reading, math and writing must be included in the battery. Acceptable instruments include the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery-III: Tests of Achievement with fluency measures; Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK); Scholastic Ability Test for Adults (SATA); Wechsler Individual Achievement Test II (WIAT II) with reading rate; and if applicable, additional supplemental tests such as the Test of Written Language-IV (TOWL-IV); Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised; Nelson-Denny Reading Test; or the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test. The Wide Range Achievement Test-3 (WRAT-3) is not suitable.
Information processing: Specific areas of information processing such as short and long term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual perception/processing, processing speed, executive functioning, motor ability, should be addressed. Acceptable instruments include Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-3 (DTLA-3) or Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-Adult (DTLA-A). Use of specific subtests from the WAIS-III or Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability is acceptable.
II. Documentation must include a specific diagnosis of a Learning Disability.
There must be clear and specific evidence and identification of a learning disability. Terms such as learning difficulties or learning differences are not equivalent to a diagnosis of a learning disability. It is preferred that a DSM-IV diagnosis and code number be included. It is important to rule out alternative explanations for problems in learning, such as emotional, attentional, or motivational problems, that may be interfering with learning but do not constitute a specific learning disability. If the data does not indicate that a learning disability is present, the evaluator must state that conclusion in the report.
III. Documentation must be current.
Sarah Lawrence acknowledges that once a person is diagnosed as having a learning disability that qualifies for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the disability is normally viewed as lifelong. However, the severity and manifestations of the disability may change over time. The provision of reasonable accommodations and services is based on the assessment of the current impact of the individual’s disability on his or her academic performance; therefore, it is in the best interest of the individual to provide recent and appropriate documentation. For the purposes of documenting a learning disability, testing must generally have been completed within the past five years.
IV. A qualified professional must provide the documentation.
Professionals conducting assessments, rendering diagnoses of specific learning disabilities (LD) and making recommendations for appropriate accommodations must be qualified to do so. Comprehensive training and relevant experience working with adolescent and adult populations are essential. Competence in working with culturally and linguistically diverse populations is also essential. The name, title, and professional credentials of the evaluator, including information about license or certification as well as the area of specialization, employment, and state in which the individual practices should be clearly stated in the documentation. It is not appropriate for professionals to evaluate members of their own families.
V. Recommendation(s) for accommodations and services.
It is important to recognize that accommodation needs can change over time and are not always identified through the initial diagnostic process. Conversely, a prior history of accommodation, without demonstration of a current need, does not, in and of itself, warrant the provision of a similar accommodation. The documentation should include specific recommendations for accommodations that are appropriate at the postsecondary educational setting, as well as an explanation of why each accommodation is recommended. The particular profile of the applicant's strengths and weaknesses must be shown to relate to functional limitations and the requested accommodation(s). Where possible, the evaluator should link suggested accommodations to specific academic task demands. If no prior accommodations were provided, the evaluator must include a detailed explanation as to why no accommodations were used in the past and why accommodations are needed at this time. A school plan such as an IEP or a 504 plan, though useful information as to past accommodations, in and of itself is not sufficient documentation. It may be included as part of the comprehensive report.
The documentation is confidential and will be used only for the purpose of enabling the College to provide the student with appropriate supportive academic accommodations and services. No part of the documentation will be released without the student’s written consent.
VII. Documentation should be sent to:
Polly B. Waldman
Associate Dean of Studies and Disability Services
Sarah Lawrence College
One Mead Way
Bronxville, New York 10708
Guidelines adapted from Educational Testing Services (2007). Policy Statement for Documentation of a Learning Disability in Adolescents and Adults, Second Edition.
Questions? Please contact Polly Waldman, Associate Dean of Studies and Disability Services, at (914) 395-2235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.