In order to accurately determine the appropriate accommodations for students with learning disabilities, documentation should be current. To be current, the evaluation must have been completed when the student was an adult (usually older than 15) so that adult scales and instruments were used, or within the last three years.
This assessment should include a diagnostic interview to determine medical, developmental, psychosocial, family, academic and employment history (if applicable). It should include assessments of:
All tests must be applicable for adult populations and the evaluator should list subscale scores and, where applicable, index or cluster scores.
A complete cognitive battery, appropriate for an adult population, with all subtest and standard scores reported should be included. Data should logically reflect a substantial limitation to learning for which the student is requesting the accommodation. The tests should be reliable, valid and standardized for use with adolescent/adult populations. The test findings should document both the nature and severity of the disability. The following areas must be assessed:
- Oral language
- Phonological/orthographic processing
- Memory/learning (working memory, long-term memory, and/or short-term memory)
- Executive functions
- Visual-perceptual/visual spatial
A comprehensive academic achievement battery should include current levels of academic functioning in relevant areas such as reading (decoding and comprehension), mathematics, and oral and written language.
Individual learning styles, learning differences, academic problems and/or test anxiety, in and of themselves, do not constitute a learning disability. The diagnostician must use specific language in the documentation, avoiding the use of such terms as "suggests" or "is indicative of." If the data indicates that a learning disability is present, the evaluator should state this conclusion in the report.
The clinical summary should include: a demonstration of the evaluators having ruled out alternative explanations for academic problems (i.e. poor education, poor motivation, emotional problems, cultural/language differences, etc.), an indication of how patterns in the student's cognitive ability, achievement and information processing reflect the presence of a learning disability, an indication of the substantial limitation to learning or other major life activity presented by the learning disability and the degree to which it impacts the individual in the learning context for which accommodations are being requested.
Suggestions for Accommodations
It is helpful for the evaluator to include suggested accommodations based upon the clinical findings. However, the final decision of what accommodations are granted is made by the disability advisor.
A Specific Diagnosis
Inidividual learning styles, learning differences, academic problems and/or test anxiety, in and of themselves, do not constitute a learning disability. The diagnostician must use specific language in the documentation, avoiding the use of such terms as "suggests" or "is indicative of." If the data indicates that a learning disability is present, the evaluator should state this conclusion in the report.
The Testing Instruments
The testing instruments used to assess the student must be technically adequate and document both the nature and severity of the learning disability. The following are suggested testing instruments:
- General Intelligence Tests. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-IV), Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery-III (Test of Cognitive Ability), Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test, Standford-Binet Intelligence Scale (4th ed.). (Please Note: The Slosson IQ-Revised and the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test are primarily screening devices and are therefore not comprehensive measures of intelligence.)
- Academic Achievement. Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA), Stanford Test of Academic Skills, Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery-Revised: Tests of Achievement, Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), Nelson Denny Reading Skills Test, Stanford Diagnostic Math Test, Test of Written Language, or Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised. (Please Note: The Wide Range Achievement Test-3 is not a comprehensive measure of achievement and therefore would not be helpful in the diagnostic process.)
- Cognitive Battery. WAIS-R subtest, Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery-Revised (Tests of Cognitive Ability), Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-3, Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude-Adult.
- For language disabilities, in addition to the general intelligence and achievment tests, the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP) is recommended.