Documentation Guidelines: Learning Disabilities

Colored pencils in an arcStudents seeking support services from Student Accessibility Services (SAS) on the basis of a previously diagnosed learning disorder (LD) must submit documentation that verifies their eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act. The documentation must describe a disabling condition, which is defined by the presence of significant limitations in one or more major life activities. Merely submitting evidence of a diagnosis and/or a discrepancy between ability and achievement on the basis of a single subtest score is not sufficient to warrant academic accommodations. Similarly, nonspecific diagnoses, such as individual “learning styles,” “learning differences,” “academic problems,” and “test difficulty/anxiety” in and of themselves do not constitute a disability. The guidelines below are intended to provide guidance for the assessment process, including the areas that must be assessed in order for SAS staff to make appropriate decisions. Please do not hesitate to contact SAS at 956-882-7374 on the Brownsville campus or 956-665-7005 on the Edinburg campus if you have any questions.

Students submitting documentation of a learning disorder must provide a copy of the comprehensive psychoeducational report in order for the student to be eligible for accommodations and/or modifications.  

Documentation should include:

1. DSM-IV or ICD Diagnosis (text and code) and information concerning comorbidity.
There must be clear and specific evidence of a learning disability.

Testing should be current. Accommodations are based on the current nature and impact of your disability. In general, this means that testing must have been conducted within the last three (3) years prior to your request for accommodations.

2. Evaluation: Testing must be comprehensive. Objective evidence of a substantial limitation in cognition and learning must be provided. Minimally, the domains to be addressed must include, but are not limited to:

  • A diagnostic interview – include relevant background information in support of the diagnosis. This may include a self-report of limitations and difficulties, a history of the presenting problem(s), a developmental history, academic history, including summaries of previous evaluation results and reports of classroom behavior and performance, a history of the family’s learning difficulties and primary language spoken in the home, any pertinent medical and psychological history, a discussion of possible comorbid conditions.
  • A complete psychoeducational or neuropsychological evaluation – actual test scores must be provided; standard scores are preferred. It is not acceptable to administer only one test or to base the diagnosis on only one of several subtests. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) in and of themselves are not sufficient documentation. The assessment instruments used must be reliable, valid, and standardized for diagnosing learning disabilities. The following areas are generally assessed:
    • Aptitude – intellectual assessments
    • Achievement – current levels of academic functioning in relevant areas such as reading, mathematics, oral and written language
    • Information Processing – specific areas of information processing (e.g. short and long term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual perception/processing, processing speed, executive functioning, motor ability).

3. Functional Limitations: The evaluation report should clearly detail how the individual’s disabling condition affects a major life activity and the resultant functional limitations in the academic setting. This may include information on the severity and pervasiveness of the disorder. The evaluator should also specify how the evaluation results relate to the individual’s functioning.

Functional limitations should be determined WITHOUT consideration of mitigating measures (i.e. medication, etc.). If condition is episodic in nature, level of functioning should be assessed based on active phase of symptoms.

4. Accommodations: The documentation should include a history of current and past accommodations and whether or not they were useful. Recommendations for future accommodations and services are helpful and should be included. However, the determination of whether an accommodation is reasonable and appropriate within the University environment rests with Student Accessibility Services.

All documentation must be submitted on the official letterhead of the professional, school district, or agency describing the disability. The report should be dated and signed and include the name, title, and professional credentials of the evaluator, including information about license/certification, as well as area of specialization, employment, and state in which the individual practices must be clearly stated. Use of diagnostic terminology indicating a specific disability by someone whose training and experience are not in these fields is not acceptable. Evaluators should not be related to the individual being assessed.

Student Accessibility Services will make the determination regarding whether accommodations are reasonable in the University environment.

All documentation submitted to SAS is considered confidential.