Skip to main content

Guidelines For Documentation Of A Specific Learning Disability

Guidelines For Documentation Of A Specific Learning Disability

In order to verify eligibility for services, students with learning disabilities are asked to submit documentation that supports the presence of a learning disability as well as the need for accommodations such as a psycho-educational evaluation. The following guidelines are appropriate to document eligibility and determine reasonable accommodations. 1

  1. Testing must be comprehensive. It is not acceptable to administer only one test for the purpose of diagnosis. Minimally, domains to be addressed must include (but are not limited to):
    • Aptitude The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R) with subtest scores is the preferred instrument. The Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised: Test of Cognitive Ability, or the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: Fifth Edition is acceptable.
    • 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; Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK); Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults; specific or achievement tests such as the TEST of Written Language-2 (TOWL), Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised, or the STANFORD Diagnostic Mathematics Test. The Wide Range Achievement TEST_Revised (WRAT_R) is not a comprehensive measure of achievement and therefore is not suitable.
    • Information Processing Specific areas of information processing (e.g., short and long-term memory; sequential memory; auditory and visual perception/processing; processing speed) must be assessed. Use of subtests from the WAIS-R or the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability is acceptable. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list or to restrict assessment in other pertinent and helpful areas such as vocational interest and aptitudes.
  2. Testing must be current. In most cases, this means it is preferred to be within the past three years. Since assessment constitutes the basis for determining reasonable accommodations, it is in the student’s best interest to provide recent and appropriate documentation to serve as the basis for decision-making about a student’s needs for accommodations in the college environment.
  3. There must 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. There must be an absence of other primary causal factors leading to achievement below expectations such as auditory or visual disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, or lack of opportunity to learn due to cultural or socioeconomic circumstances, or deficiencies in intellectual ability.
  4. Professionals conducting assessment and rendering diagnoses of specific learning disabilities must be qualified to do so. Trained and certified and/or licensed psychologists, learning disabilities specialists, and educational therapists are typically involved in the process of assessment. Experience working with an adult population is essential.
  5. Evaluators should be able to demonstrate that the selection of assessment instruments is based upon their suitability (i.e., reliability and validity) for use with an adult population. Test score/data should be included.
  6. Diagnostic reports must include the names and titles of the evaluators as well as the date(s) of testing.

The evaluator should describe the impact the diagnosed learning disability has on a specific major life activity as well as the degree of significance of this impact on the individual. A detailed explanation must be provided as to why each accommodation is recommended and should be correlated with specific test results or clinical observations. The document should include any record of prior accommodations and whether or not they benefited the student. A prior history of accommodation, without demonstration of a current need, does not in itself warrant the provision of a like accommodation. If no prior accommodation had been provided, an explanation is necessary as to why an accommodation is needed at this time. When accommodations are warranted, the determination for accommodation rests with the designated campus disability counselor.

1Adapted from McGuire, J.M., P.L. Anderson, & S.F. Shaw, (1992). The University of Connecticut Guidelines for Documentation of a Specific Learning Disability. Storrs: A.J. Pappanikou Center on Special Education and Rehabilitation.