Checklist for Learning Disabilities and Cognitive Disorders Documentation

  • Documentation should be prepared by a person who is an unrelated, neutral professional qualified, by training and practice, to diagnose and treat the impairment leading to the disability.
  • A licensed psychologist, with appropriate clinical training and experience working with adults, should conduct the assessment and make the diagnosis for a learning disorder.  A cognitive disorder (e.g. as a result of a traumatic brain injury or seizure disorder) should be evaluated by a licensed psychologist or neurologist. If students have not secured a professional, they should look in their insurance company's provider directory, or ask a family physician or university staff for referrals.
  • Documentation must include name, title, professional credentials, licensure/certificate information, original signature and contact information. Reports should be written in English or translated into English by a qualified translator.
  • Documents must be typed on dated letterhead of either the practitioner or the agency hosting the practice. The university will not accept handwritten notes on prescription pads, photocopies of physician’s notes, or hospital discharge papers.
  • In order to determine appropriate accommodations for university classes, students should have been evaluated at age 16 or older with assessment instruments of age appropriate norms for high school seniors/university freshmen or older students. The determination of what is current may vary according to the nature of the disability or disorder. The university reserves the right to ask for more recent documentation or additional documentation for clarification as appropriate.
  • Documentation must provide specific diagnosis consistent with the criteria found in the American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV TR). For the criteria of a learning disorder, a student must exhibit one or more, but not all, areas of specific academic deficits, a correlated cognitive deficit and average intellectual ability. If another diagnosis is applicable, state that diagnosis.
  • A comprehensive assessment battery and the resulting diagnostic report should include a diagnostic interview, test scores of the assessment of aptitude, academic achievement, and information processing.
  • Documentation must state the specific functional limitations relating to an academic environment and/or academic performance. Describe the impact of the learning disorder(s): mild, moderate, or severe.
  • Documentation should include a discussion of reasonable accommodations and/or auxiliary aids that have been used at the secondary or postsecondary level. Include information about the specific conditions under which the accommodation was used (e.g., standardized testing, final exams) and whether or not it benefited the student. If no accommodations have been previously supplied, explain why the student currently needs the suggested accommodation(s).
  • Include information on the current medication(s), if any, used to treat the condition and potential side effects on the student’s ability to face university-level academic demands and stressors.
  • Oral language skills should be assessed and discussed. Formal instruments or an informal analysis of a language sample are appropriate. Universities are primarily interested in whether or not a student’s learning or cognitive disorder is affecting oral language and/or if a separate speech disorder is also present.
  • Social-emotional status should be assessed and discussed. Formal assessment instruments and/or clinical interview are appropriate. Universities need to know differential diagnosis of psychological disorders that impact upon academics as distinct from learning disorders.
  • College is typically quite stressful for students who have learning disorders and other cognitive impairments. In an attempt to best serve students, it is helpful to know about their personality characteristics, psychological welfare, self-esteem, and stress level.
  • Discuss cognitive processing strengths, weaknesses, and deficits.  Address the following processing areas: a) visual spatial abilities, b) memory (auditory and visual: short-term and long term), c) fine motor/dexterity, d) executive functions (verbal and nonverbal reasoning). It is also helpful to know about the student's cognitive flexibility and automaticity with cognitive tasks and e) attention (auditory and visual).

Without such written documentation, a student will be unable to receive appropriate academic accommodations that may be critical for his or her academic success.