How do I know for certain that I have a Learning Disability? Does my testing from high school qualify? What sort of documentation is required?
In order to be eligible for services and accommodations as a student with a disability, one must provide comprehensive documentation. Testing must have been completed by a licensed professional. The assessment must be of sufficient breadth and depth to cover a wide range of potential deficits, and to detect subtle psychological and executive functioning problems. Information needs to be provided about individual strengths and weaknesses to allow for more effective decisions regarding the most appropriate accommodations.
UT-Pan American Learning Disability Diagnostic Criteria
I. A Qualified Professional Must Conduct the Evaluation
Professionals conducting this evaluation must be qualified to conduct an assessment, render a diagnosis of a specific learning disability and make recommendations for appropriate accommodations for adolescents and/or adults. The name, title, and professional credentials of the evaluator (including information about license and/or certification) should be included on the report. Examples of professionals considered to be qualified to evaluate specific learning disabilities might include clinical or educational psychologists; school psychologists and/or neuropsychologists. (Note: It is not appropriate for professionals to evaluate members of their own families)
II. Testing Must be Current
Although a person diagnosed as having a qualified learning disability is normally viewed as life-long, the severity of the condition may change over time. Because reasonable accommodations and services are based upon UT Pan American's assessment of the current impact of the individuals' disabilities on his/her academic performance, recent and appropriate documentation should be submitted.
III. Prior Documentation
A high school plan such as an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 plan is insufficient documentation in and of itself. However, sometimes this type of documentation in addition to a current comprehensive assessment is useful in determining appropriate services.
Actual test scores must logically reflect a substantial limitation to learning for which the individual is requesting the accommodations. Documentation should indicate a significant discrepancy calculation (based on industry standards) relative to expectancy:
A. Expectancy is defined as a standard score (or intelligence quotient) obtained on an intelligence test. In cases where a significant difference is calculated between verbal and performance scores, the verbal, performance, or full-scale score (whichever best represents the individual's intelligence level, as documented) may be used.
B. Significant discrepancy is defined as a negative difference of more than 15 standard score points between the standard score on the intelligence test and the standard score obtained in an academic area as well as in a specific area of processing ability. This discrepancy in scores must be documented in terms reported in the technical manual for the individual test instrument. Evidence of a significant academic deficiency relative to expectancy as well as to a significant discrepancy in at least one area of cognitive processing must be present.
Based on expectancy, a statistically significant discrepancy of at least one standard deviation shall be calculated, in one or more of the following academic areas as measured by standardized tests:
- Reading/Reading Comprehension
- Written Expression
- Mathematics (Calculation and/or Applied Problems) In addition to the discrepancy measured between expectancy in at least one academic area, a discrepancy must also be found in at least one area of specific processing ability. These abilities as measured by standardized tests include:
- Visual Processing (e.g., visual-perceptual speed, visual-spatial abilities, visual-motor)
- Auditory Processing (e.g., auditory sequencing ability, auditory discrimination, auditory concentration skills, and auditory memory).
- Verbal Processing (e.g., word retrieval abilities, and verbal fluency).
- Reasoning Ability (e.g., ability to approach problem solving in a logical and sequential manner, and ability to shift cognitive strategies as the specific task requires).