Documentation for a Learning Disability
Purdue University is required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to provide effective auxiliary aids and services for qualified students with documented disabilities if such academic adjustments are needed to provide equitable access to the University's programs and services. Federal law defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Major life activities are defined as the ability to perform functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, or taking care of oneself. It is important to note that a diagnosis of a learning disorder does not necessarily constitute a disability. The degree of impairment must be significant enough to "substantially limit" one or more major life activities.
The mission of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) is to provide services that enable and encourage eligible students with disabilities to seek success in their intellectual and personal development at Purdue and elsewhere. The staff of the Disability Resource Center, in collaboration with the wider University community, ensures these students access to academic and extracurricular activities. The mission of the Disability Resource Center includes the provision of accommodations to qualified students with a learning disorder. The documentation guidelines are designed to allow the Disability Resource Center to achieve these goals.
The Purdue University guidelines for documentation of a learning disorder were developed to aid professionals who assess Purdue students. The documentation must include a specific diagnosis of a learning disorder, be current, and be comprehensive. The documentation must establish the functional limitations of a learning disorder, how it impairs the person and how it may impact educational performance. The definition of a functional limitation is: A substantial impairment in the individual's ability to perform in the condition, manner or duration of a major life activity. Academic adjustments may be recommended; however, a clear and convincing rationale is required to identify the necessity of the adjustments to achieve success. (Note: there are additional guidelines that apply to the diagnosis of a Psychological Disability or to a diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).)
The staff of the Disability Resource Center on a case-by-case basis makes the determination of whether a diagnosed learning disorder rises to the level of a substantial limitation of a major life activity. Further, they determine what reasonable adjustments in the academic activities are needed to provide access. If the quality or quantity of the documentation is inadequate, the options for Disability Resource Center staff are to deny eligibility, to deny a requested adjustment or to request additional documentation.
Information provided to the Disability Resource Center is considered confidential. Documentation and evaluation information will not be released outside of the academic community without the consent of the student or under compulsion of legal process. Generally, documentation and evaluation information is not shared within the academic community without the consent of the student.
As of: Mar 02
GUIDELINES FOR DOCUMENTATION OF LEARNING DISORDERS (LD)
The Disability Resource Center uses the DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS - Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) and other sources to interpret the diagnosis of and documentation about a learning disorder. (See Supplemental Information - I.)
The following guidelines are provided to assure that documentation is appropriate to determine eligibility and to support requests for reasonable academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services. The LD Coordinator and Program Specialists of the Disability Resource Center are available to consult with diagnosticians regarding any of these guidelines.
DIAGNOSIS OF A LEARNING DISORDER
The documentation must clearly state a diagnosis of a learning disorder. (See Supplemental Information - I.)
DOCUMENTATION MUST BE CURRENT
Because of developmental changes as an individual matures and because the provision of academic adjustments and other services is based on an assessment of the current impact of the disorder on educational performance, recent documentation is required. In most cases, this means that the assessment and testing was conducted within the previous three years.
DOCUMENTATION MUST BE COMPREHENSIVE
An assessment report providing information and client history from the diagnostic/clinical interview, assessment instruments (as appropriate), other assessments, and the diagnostic/clinical summary is required. All reports should be on letterhead and must be typed, dated, and signed. The assessment report must include the name(s), title(s), and professional credentials of the evaluator(s). (For a sample report see Supplemental Information - III. Note: Individual Education Programs (IEPs) are useful, but are not sufficient to establish a diagnosis of a learning disorder or the rationale for an adjustment.)
- DIAGNOSTIC/CLINICAL INTERVIEW. Common components of the interview are:
- Information about childhood impairment. (e.g., elementary school grades, childhood assessment instruments, observations of teachers/parents, etc.)
- Information about the current impairment and the impact on education. (e.g., secondary school grades, assessment instruments, secondary school academic adjustments, observations of teachers/parents, etc.)
- Background information. (e.g., family history, developmental history, medical history, current level of English language fluency, etc.)
- Information about the intensity and frequency of the symptoms and their functional limitations.
- Information about the impact of the impairment on one or more major life activities.
- Information about the use and impact of academic mitigations. (a positive response to academic mitigations does not confirm a diagnosis or support or negate the need
for academic adjustments.)
- ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENTS. Several diagnostic instruments are commonly used to provide a foundation of information upon which to base a diagnosis and to identify the
student's functional status. Minimally, the instruments measure the ability domains of aptitude, achievement and information processing. (See Supplemental Information - II.) The information
from the assessment instruments which are used will include:
- The name of the assessment instrument(s) used and the date(s) of testing.
- The test scores obtained. (Standard scores, T-scores, and percentiles are required, as applicable. Grade equivalents are not acceptable unless standard scores are also included.)
- The interpretation of the scores. (Test protocol sheets or scores alone are not sufficient.)
- OTHER ASSESSMENTS. Informal and non-standard assessments and observations by a qualified professional may be included when such are combined with clinical findings.
- DIAGNOSTIC/CLINICAL SUMMARY. Among other statements the summary will address the challenge of distinguishing a clinically significant learning impairment from the normal behaviors and cultural and developmental patterns of adolescents and adults (e.g., normal variations in academic attainment, academic underachievement or failure, individual learning styles and learning differences, low self-esteem, lack of educational opportunity, poor teaching, cultural factors, etc.) Statements demonstrating the elimination of or ruling our of alternative diagnoses (e.g., impaired vision or hearing, mental retardation, pervasive developmental disorder, communication disorders, etc.) that might otherwise explain the symptoms of the learning disorder are included.
Academic adjustments may be recommended. Generally, academic adjustments are assisting devices, modifications or adaptations that serve to ease the current impact of the disorder on access to a particular learning activity. The rationale for a recommended adjustment as expressed in the assessment report must be clear and convincing as to the necessity of the adjustment to achieve access. Further, reasonable adjustments, support services, and auxiliary aids are those which: do not constitute fundamental alteration of the nature of the course or of essential course requirements; do not cause undue administrative or financial burden to the university in effecting implementation; and are not items or services of a personal nature.
Academic adjustments may change over time and may not be identified through the initial diagnostic process. A history of the provision of an adjustment does not, in and of itself, warrant the current provision of a similar adjustment to provide access.
QUALIFICATIONS OF THE EVALUATING PROFESSIONAL
Professionals, conducting assessments, rendering diagnoses of learning disorders, and making recommendations for adjustments for students with a learning disorder, must have comprehensive training and relevant experience with the adolescent or adult population. Qualified professionals include: neuropsychologists, clinical/educational/school psychologists and other professionals. The documentation should clearly identify the name, title, professional credentials, area of specialization, employment, and state where practicing of the evaluating professional.
QUESTIONS/ DOCUMENTATION SUBMISSION
If you have questions regarding the nature of the information needed for students with a learning disorder, please call the Disability Resource Center at (765) 494-1247, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
All documentation should be submitted to:
LD Learning Specialists, Disability Resource Center
Ernest C. Young Hall, Room 830
155 S Grant Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Fax: (765) 496-3759
- DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR A LEARNING DISORDER
The following information is provided for the purpose of reference.
The components of and criteria for a diagnosis of learning disorders are outlined in the DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS - Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). The current version of the DSM-IV states, "Learning Disorders are diagnosed when the individual's achievement on individually administered, standardized tests in reading, mathematics or written expression is substantially below that expected for age, schooling, and level of intelligence. A variety of statistical approaches can be used to establish that a discrepancy is significant. Substantially below is usually defined as a discrepancy of more than 2 standard deviations between achievement and IQ. A smaller discrepancy between achievement and IQ (i.e., between 1 and 2 standard deviations) is sometimes used, especially in cases where an individual's performance on an IQ test may have been compromised by an associated disorder in cognitive processing, a comorbid mental disorder or general medical condition, or the individual's ethnic or cultural background. If a sensory deficit is present, the learning difficulties must be in excess of those usually associated with the deficit. Learning Disorders may persist into adulthood." (p.46).
In addition the DSM-IV at pages 47 and 48 under Differential Diagnosis states, "Learning Disorders must be differentiated from normal variations in academic attainment and from scholastic difficulties die to lack of opportunity, poor teaching, or cultural factors. Inadequate schooling can result in poor performance on standardized achievement tests. Children from ethnic or cultural backgrounds different from the prevailing school culture or in which English is not the primary language and children who have attended class in schools where teaching has been inadequate may score poorly on achievement tests. Children from these same backgrounds may also be at a greater risk for absenteeism due to more frequent illnesses or impoverished or chaotic living environments."
As expressed in the AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability) guidelines for documentation of a learning disorder, "Individual 'learning styles,' 'learning difficulties,' 'academic problems,' and 'test difficulty or anxiety,' in and of themselves, do not constitute a learning disability."
- ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENTS/TESTS
Generally, evidence of a learning disorder is established by the use of various standardized assessment instruments or tests. Assessment instruments used to assess the students's intellectual ability and academic achievement shall be: reliable; normed on representative national samples; and individually administered and interpreted by a licensed psychologist in accordance with the standardized procedures described in the test manual. Assessment materials, procedures and instruments used shall be selected and administered so as not to be racially or culturally discriminatory. All assessment instruments shall have been validated for the specific purpose for which they are used and shall accurately reflect whatever factors the instruments purport to measure. Non-standardized instruments should be thoroughly interpreted and linked to the results from standardized instruments.
Minimally the assessment instruments/tests seek to address various ability domains.
Aptitude. (This domain assesses the learning that occurs in a variety of life experiences and the ability to apply the information in new and different ways. The goal of the tests is to provide a measure of future performance.) The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third Edition with subtest scores is the preferred instrument (all subtests for a standard battery need to be administered). Other acceptable instruments are: Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery - Third Edition: Tests of Cognitive Ability, or the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: Fourth Edition. The Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT) is not a comprehensive measurement and therefore is not suitable for the specific information needed.
Achievement. (This domain assesses the learning and mastery of factual information acquired in school or at home.) Current levels of functioning in reading, mathematics and written language are required. Acceptable instruments include: Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery - Third Edition: Test of Achievement; Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT - II); Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK); or specific achievement tests such as the Test of Written Language - 3 (TOWL-3), Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests - Revised, Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test, Nelson-Denny Reading Skills Test, or Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test. The Wide Range Achievement Test - 3 (WRAT-3) and/or the Mini-Battery of Achievement (MBA), when used as the sole measure of the student's achievement, does not provide the specific information that is needed for our program specialists to determine the learning needs of our students.
Information Processing. (This domain assesses disturbances in organizing and interpreting verbal and non-verbal stimuli. It includes auditory/visual reception and perception.) If the student has difficulties with information processing, assessment instruments that measure the suspected deficit should be considered. Specific areas of information processing must be assessed (e.g., short and long-term memory; sequential memory; auditory and visual perception/processing; processing speed). Information from subtests on the WAIS-III, the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability, or the Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-Adult (DTLA-A), as well as other instruments relevant to the learning problem(s) may be used to address these areas (i.e., Halsted-Reitan, Wisconsin Card Sort, etc.). If the individual has problems with memory/word retrieval problems, instruments such as the Wechsler Memory Scale - III or the Boston Naming Test are recommended.
The above list is not intended to be exhaustive or to restrict assessment in other pertinent and helpful domains/areas such as vocational interests and vocational aptitudes.
- Report Format (Sample) / Assessment Battery (Sample)
Name: Birth date: Sex: Ethnicity: Dates of Testing: Age at Testing: Date of Report: Referral: Examiner:
Referral and Presenting Problems:
Evaluation Instruments: (Sample Battery)
Aptitude: Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III), all subtests for a standard battery.
Achievement: Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Third Edition: Tests of Achievement.
Information Processing: Extended testing as necessary. (See above.)
Review of Records (Specify, e.g., attendance, conduct, grades and teacher comments, previous testing, etc.)
Analysis of Test Results
Diagnosis (Use DSM-IV)
Recommendations: Address functional limitations, how will an adjustment impact the limitations/achieve access, etc.)
(Note: attach all test scores or integrate the scores into the report.)
Name and degree(s)
Title/Area of Concentration
As of: Mar02