Guidelines for Documenting a Disability

(documenting a specific disability)

To provide reasonable and appropriate academic accommodations to UTHSC students with disabilities, SASS requires documentation to show the current diagnosis, the significant functional limitation in a major life activity being impacted for which an accommodation is being requested, and a rationale for why the accommodation is needed.

UTHSC adheres to the standards set forth by Educational Testing Services (ETS). It is essential that each student understand his/her responsibility to look at the information provided for the specific type of disability for which they are asking accommodations and make certain that the documentation adheres to those specific guidelines.

DOCUMENTATION MUST MINIMALLY INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:

All documentation submitted to SASS must include the following information in addition to disability specific information listed on the following pages.

  1. The report must clearly state the diagnosed disability or disabilities. Terms such as "suggest" or "is indicative of" are not acceptable.
  2. Describe the significant functional limitation(s) and the specific effect(s) it has in the learning environment. A diagnosis in and of itself is not sufficient for accommodations.
    • This information is frequently left out of reports and is essential for the approval of documentation.
  3. Documentation must be current, in most cases within the last 3 years. The determination of what is current documentation depends on the nature of the disability: within the last 3-5 years for a learning disability, last 6 months for psychiatric disabilities, or last 3 years for ADHD and all other disabilities. However, SASS reserves the right to make appropriate modifications to this time frame.
  4. Include complete educational, developmental, and medical history relevant to the disability for which testing accommodations are being requested.
  5. Include a list of all testing instruments, scores and subtest scores derived from these tests and a discussion of the data in the evaluation report. SASS reserves the right to determine which tests are acceptable for diagnosing the disability. Standardized tests must be based on adult norms.
  6. Describe the specific accommodations being requested and explain the rationale for each as to why the accommodations may be needed based upon the student's functional limitation.
    • A request for extended time should have documentation that demonstrates difficulty taking tests under timed conditions. In most cases, the documentation should include scores from both timed and extended/untimed tests, to demonstrate any differences caused by the timed conditions.
    • Please Note: If extended test taking time is suggested, the inability to complete an exam is not a sufficient rationale since this does not address the academic need for the accommodation as related to the student's functional limitation and disability.
  7. Reports should be typed or printed on official letterhead and be signed by an evaluator qualified to make the diagnosis (include information about license or certification and area of specialization). Professionals conducting the evaluation/assessment must be qualified to do so, and it is essential that they have experience working with adult populations.
  8. If medications are taken these should be listed. Any potential side effects caused by the medications should also be listed.
  9. If symptoms involve cognitive recall (memory), appropriate testing needs to be conducted. Testing for specific learning disabilities may be appropriate.
  10. A doctor's prescription pad note or a school plan such as an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan IS NOT sufficient documentation in and of itself, but can be included as part of a more comprehensive evaluation report.

Please Note

It must be understood that evaluation reports themselves do not automatically qualify a student for registration or services through the SASS. SASS will make the final decision as to whether reasonable and appropriate accommodations are needed and can be provided to the student.

It is important to note that a prior history of receiving accommodations in previous academic/testing environments is not a guarantee one will be granted accommodations on a high stakes examination. Prior documentation may have been adequate in determining appropriate services or accommodations in the past. However, a prior history of accommodations without demonstration of a current need does not in itself warrant.

Documentation for a Specific Disability

In addition to the general guidelines listed on the previous pages, documentation for a specific disability must also include the following:

ADD/ADHD

  1. A qualified diagnostician must conduct the evaluation.
    • Professionals conducting assessments and rendering diagnoses of ADD/ADHD must be qualified to do so. Comprehensive training in the differential diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and direct experience in diagnosis and treatment of adolescents and adults with ADD/ADHD is necessary.
  2. Evaluation report must include specific information:
    • Date(s) of assessment;
    • Clear diagnosis utilizing the appropriate DSM-IV or ICD code(s);
    • A description of the exact symptoms and criteria met for the diagnosis as well as absence of specific diagnostic criteria for ADD/ADHD;
    • A description of how the condition was diagnosed;
    • Identification of tools used for diagnostic purposes;
    • Clinical observations;
    • Relevant pharmacological history, explanation of the extent to which the medication(s) currently benefit and effect the student;
    • Testing results using adult norms and reporting as percentiles or stanines, along with standard scores;
    • Description of the functional impact as it pertains to the learning environment;
    • Details about the typical progression or prognosis of the condition.
  3. Evidence to support a childhood onset of symptoms and associated impairment.
    • Historical information regarding the individual's developmental, academic and behavioral functioning in elementary and secondary education;
    • Review of educational records and parental report in addition to self-report;
    • Validity for a self-reported impairment, which must include historical information that confirms developmentally deviant ADD/ADHD symptoms and impairment such as difficulties and/or use of accommodations in elementary school, middle school, high school or college;
    • Early psycho-educational testing reports;
    • Documentation from tutors or learning specialists;
    • Disciplinary records.
  4. Documentation should build a case for and provide a rationale for the ADHD diagnosis.
    • In-depth history reflecting a chronic and pervasive history of ADD/ADHD symptoms and associated impairment beginning during childhood and persisting to the present day;
    • Description and emphasis on how ADD/ADHD symptoms have manifested across various settings over time, how the student has coped with the problems and what success the student has had in their coping efforts;
    • Documentation must rule out alternative explanations for the identified difficulty, including psychological or physical reasons, cognitive ability, academic background, poor study and test-taking habits;
    • All co-morbid issues should be addressed and the manner in which they impact the diagnosis or need for accommodations should also be discussed;
    • A thorough explanation of the significant functional limitation(s) to major life activities (e.g. learning, concentrating, thinking) posed by the disability;
    • Description of the degree to which the functional limitations apply to the life activity for which accommodations are being requested.
  5. Comprehensive testing battery and diagnostic report with specific assessment data must be included.
    • Summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis.
    • An intellectual assessment including sub-test scores, standard scores and percentiles or stanines:
      • Acceptable IQ Tests:
        • Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test
        • Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS)
        • Stanford Binet - 5th Edition
        • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Score-IV (WAIS-IV)
        • Woodcock-Johnson III, Tests of Cognitive Abilities, General Intellectual Ability (WJ-III)
      • NOT Acceptable IQ Tests:
        • Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT)
        • Slosson Intelligence Test
        • Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI)
        • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - III (WISC-III)
    • A comprehensive academic achievement battery with all sub-test scores, standard scores and percentile or stanines reported, and should include current levels of academic functioning in such relevant areas as reading:
      • Acceptable Achievement Tests:
        • Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA)
        • Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK)
        • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - II (WIAT-II)
        • Woodcock-Johnson III Psycho-educational Battery: Test of Achievement (WJ-III)
        • Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests - Revised
        • Nelson-Denny Reading Testing (to be used as supplemental test)
      • NOT Acceptable Achievement Tests:
        • Wide Range Achievement Test - 4 (WRAT-4)
    • Assessment of short and long term memory, auditory and visual perception and processing, executive functioning, and/or motor ability. Sub-test scores, standard scores and percentiles or stanines should be provided for all normed measures.
      • Acceptable Processing Tests:
        • Detroit Test of Learning Aptitude - Adult
        • Woodcock-Johnson III, Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ-III)
        • Wechsler Memory Scale IV (WMS-IV)
        • Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning - 2nd Edition (WRAML -2)
    • Age/grade equivalent scores are not sufficient in the absence of standard scores or percentile ranks; all test scores must be included in the report including sub-test scores, standard scores and percentile ranks or stanines.
    • Test data should logically reflect a substantial limitation to learning for which the student is requesting the accommodation.
    • The particular profile of the student's strengths and weaknesses must be shown to relate to functional limitations that may necessitate accommodations.
    • Checklists and/or ADD/ADHD symptom rating scales can be a helpful supplement in the diagnostic process, but by themselves are not adequate to establish a diagnosis of ADHD.
    • Test scores or sub-test scores alone should not be used as a sole measure for the diagnostic decision regarding ADD/ADHD as they do not in and of themselves establish the presence or absence of ADD/ADHD.
  6. Each accommodation recommended must include a rationale.
    • Accommodations are not granted on the basis of a diagnostic label; instead, accommodation requests need to be tied to evidence of current functional impairment that supports their use.
    • The evaluator must describe the type and degree of impact the ADD/ADHD has (if one exists) on a specific major life activity and on the individual.
    • Each recommendation should be tailored to the individual and tied to specific test results and clinical observations;
    • A detailed explanation supporting the need for each requested accommodation must be provided. The rationale should explain why the specific accommodation is needed based upon functional limitations established through the evaluation process;
    • If extended time is recommended as an accommodation, specific evidence must demonstrate Oimproved performance with additional time (ex: "The inability to complete an exam" is not sufficient evidence for extended test taking time. It does not address the academic need for the accommodation as related to testing data, the student's functional limitation(s) and disability.

DEAF AND HARD-OF-HEARING

  1. Report from an audiologist or otolaryngologist that includes the following:
    • Clear statement of deafness or hearing loss;
    • Current audiogram that reflects the degree of hearing loss and current impact the deafness or hearing loss has on the student's functioning;
    • The type of hearing loss (conductive or sensorineural);
    • The status of the individual's hearing in regards to whether the hearing loss is temporary or permanent, and if it is stable or progressive;
    • Whether the condition is mitigated by hearing aids or medication;
    • Recommendations for reasonable academic accommodations.

PHYSICAL DISABILITY AND/OR HEALTH-RELATED IMPAIRMENT

  1. Letter or report from a physician in an appropriate medical specialization that includes the following:
    • The specific medical condition which causes the disability;
    • Whether the condition is temporary or permanent, and if it is stable or progressive;
    • Information about current prescribed medications used to treat the disability and possible side effects;
    • A description of the functionally limiting manifestations of the condition(s) for which accommodations are being requested;
    • Recommendations and rationales for reasonable academic accommodations.

PSYCHOLOGICAL AND/OR PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITY

  1. Psychological or neuropsychological evaluation or report from a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist that includes the following:
    • Clear statement of the condition with the DSM-IV diagnosis;
    • Clear description of the specific symptoms experienced by the student which meet the criteria for the diagnosis;
    • A summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments which were used to make the diagnosis;
    • Information about current prescribed medications used to treat the disability and possible side effects;
    • Description of the functional limitation(s) caused by the disability that would impact the academic context for which accommodations are being requested;
    • Recommendations and rationales for reasonable academic accommodations.

SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITY

  1. A qualified diagnostician must conduct the evaluation.
    • Professionals conducting assessments and rendering diagnoses of a Learning Disability must be qualified to do so. Comprehensive training and direct experience in diagnosis and treatment of adolescents and adults with LD is necessary.
  2. Documentation must be current.
    • Although LD is normally viewed as lifelong, the severity and manifestations of the condition may change over time. The provision of reasonable accommodations and services is based upon assessment of the current impact of the disability on the testing activity, therefore it is necessary to provide "recent" and appropriate documentation.
  3. Evaluation report must include specific information:
    • Date(s) of assessment;
    • A clear diagnosis utilizing the appropriate DSM or ICD code(s);
    • A description of how the condition was diagnosed;
    • Identification of tools used for diagnostic purposes;
    • Diagnostic interview and clinical observations;
    • Testing results using adult norms and reporting as percentiles or stanines, along with standard scores;
    • Description of the functional impact as it pertains to the learning environment;
    • Description of both the nature and severity of the learning disability.
  4. Historical information that might support a childhood onset of symptoms and associated impairment.
    • Learning disabilities are commonly manifested during childhood, but not always formally diagnosed, thus historical information regarding the individual's developmental, academic and behavioral functioning in elementary and secondary education is necessary;
    • Review of educational records, early psycho-educational reports, parental report in addition to self-report and disciplinary records;
    • Validity for a self-reported impairment, which must include historical information that confirms LD symptoms and impairment such as difficulties and/or use of accommodations in elementary school, middle school, high school or college;
    • Documentation from tutors or learning specialists.
  5. Rule Out.
    • Documentation must rule out alternative explanations for the identified difficulty, including psychological or physical reasons, poor study and test-taking habits, academic background or attentional, emotional, or motivational problems;
    • All co-morbid issues should be addressed and the manner in which they impact the diagnosis or need for accommodations should also be discussed;
    • A thorough explanation of the significant functional limitation(s) to major life activities (e.g. learning, concentrating, thinking) posed by the disability;
    • Description of the degree to which the functional limitations apply to the life activity for which accommodations are being requested;
    • If data indicate that a LD is not present, the evaluator should state that in the conclusion of report.
  6. Comprehensive evaluation and diagnostic report with specific assessment data must be provided.
    • Summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis;
    • An intellectual assessment including sub-test, standard scores and percentiles or stanines:
      • Acceptable IQ Tests:
        • Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test
        • Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS)
        • Stanford Binet - 5th Edition
        • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Score-IV (WAIS-IV)
        • Woodcock-Johnson III, Tests of Cognitive Ability (WJ-III)
      • NOT Acceptable IQ Tests:
        • Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (K-BIT)
        • Slosson Intelligence Test
        • Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI)
        • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - III (WISC-III)
    • A comprehensive academic achievement battery with all sub-test, standard scores and percentiles or stanines reported, and should include current levels of academic functioning in such relevant areas as reading (decoding and comprehension), mathematics, and oral and written language:
      • Acceptable Achievement Tests:
        • Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA)
        • Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK)
        • Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - II (WIAT-II)
        • Woodcock-Johnson III, Tests of Achievement (WJ-III)
        • Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests - Revised
        • Nelson-Denny Reading Testing (to be used as supplemental test)
      • NOT Acceptable Achievement Tests:
        • Wide Range Achievement Test - 4 (WRAT-4)
    • Assessment of short and long term memory, auditory and visual perception and processing, executive functioning, and/or motor ability. Sub-test scores, standard scores and percentiles or stanines should be provided for all normed measures.
      • Acceptable Processing Tests:
        • Detroit Test of Learning Aptitude - Adult
        • Woodcock-Johnson III, Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ-III)
        • Wechsler Memory Scale IV (WMS-IV)
        • Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning - 2nd Edition (WRAML - 2)
    • Age/grade equivalent scores are not sufficient in the absence of standard scores or percentile ranks.
    • Test data should logically reflect a substantial limitation to learning for which the student is requesting the accommodation.
    • The particular profile of the student's strengths and weaknesses must be shown to relate to functional limitations that may necessitate accommodations.
  7. Each accommodation recommended must include a rationale.
    • Each accommodation recommended must include a rationale.
    • The evaluator must describe the type and degree of impact that the LD has (if one exists) on a specific major life activity and on the individual.
    • A detailed explanation supporting the need for each requested accommodation must be provided. The rationale should explain why the specific accommodation is needed based upon functional limitations established through the evaluation process;
    • If extended time is recommended as an accommodation, specific evidence must demonstrate Oimproved performance with additional time (ex: "The inability to complete an exam" is not sufficient evidence for extended test taking time. It does not address the academic need for the accommodation as related to testing data, the student's functional limitation(s) and disability.

SPEECH IMPAIRMENT

  1. Report or letter from a speech pathologist or physician that includes the following:
    • The specific disabling condition;
    • Whether the condition is temporary or permanent, and if it is stable or progressive;
    • A description of the functional limitation(s) caused by the disability on student's academic performance;
    • Recommendations for reasonable academic accommodations.

VISUAL IMPAIRMENT

  1. Report or letter from an ophthalmologist or optometrist that includes the following:
    • The specific medical condition which causes the visual impairment and how long the student has experienced the condition;
    • The degree of visual acuity, including with corrective lenses;
    • The extent of the visual fields;
    • Whether the condition is temporary or permanent, and if it is stable or progressive;
    • Whether the condition is mitigated by corrective lenses or medication;
    • A description of the functional limitation(s) caused by the disability;
    • Recommendations for reasonable academic accommodations including any visual aids.



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Support Services

8 S. Dunlap GEB, Rm BB9
Memphis, TN 38163
Phone: 901-448-5056
Email: SASS@uthsc.edu

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