Disability Documentation Guidelines

Who is Eligible for Services

To be eligible for Disability Support Services, a student must have a disability as it is defined by federal legislation (Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act): a disability is any physical or mental condition that causes substantial limitations to the ability to perform one or more major life activities. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, walking, seeing, learning, hearing and speaking.

Documentation

The following guidelines are provided to assure that the documentation is adequate and appropriate to verify eligibility and to support requests for accommodations or auxiliary aids. Disability documentation should include:

  • A diagnostic statement identifying the disability, date of the current diagnostic evaluation, and the date of the original diagnosis from a qualified licensed professional.
  • A description of the diagnostic criteria and/or diagnostic test(s) used.
  • A description of the current functional impact/limitations of the disability.
  • Treatments, medications, assistive devices/services currently prescribed or used.
  • A description of the expected progression or stability of the disability over time.

Guidelines of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) for documentation of learning disabilities will be referred to in reviewing documentation pertaining to learning disabilities. Guidelines for appropriate documentation of specific disabling conditions are as follows:

  • Acquired Brain Injury

    Included among the relevant diagnoses in this category are any condition caused by surgery, trauma, or cerebral vascular accident (stroke). Limitations of brain injury may be widely diverse and cause limitations to cognition, memory, communication, behavior, motor abilities, speech, speed of processing information, and sensory abilities.

    Recommended providers include: physicians, neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed psychologists and/or clinical social workers. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • Written statement of diagnosis
    • Brief history of onset, to include date incurred, area of brain affected, immediate impairment, synopsis of hospitalization and rehabilitation/therapy
    • Information specifying current level of intellectual functioning, to include cognitive and achievement measures used and Standardizes scores
    • Information specifying substantially limited residual physical effects
    • Information specifying current medications prescribed as a result of the injury, to include side effects and possible impact on student academic performance
    • Summary statement of functional limitations, to include major life activities affected, and the degree of functional impairment
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

    It is important to note that a diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) does not necessarily constitute a disability. The degree of impairment must be significant enough to substantially limit one or more major life activities.

    Recommended professionals include: psychologists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, and other relatively trained medical doctors. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • Clearly stated clinical diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Predominantly Inattentive Type, Predominantly Hyperactive- Impulsive Type, or Combined Type), based on DSM-IV criteria
    • The names of the assessment instruments(s) used and the scores (standard scores with percentiles) obtained
    • Brief client history, including evidence of impairment in childhood; statement about use and impact of medications and therapies; and list of academic interventions and/or accommodations used previously
    • Specific recommendations for academic accommodations with a rationale for each accommodation based on the student's functional limitations
    • Statement of the student's functional limitations based on the diagnosis, specifically in a classroom/education setting
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing:

    Deafness can be defined as the inability to perceive sound or speech. The degree of hearing loss and using American Sign Language (ASL) as the primary language will require the accommodations of interpreters.

    Hard of hearing refers to individuals who have hearing loss, who may or may not speak ASL, and who often interact with hearing individuals. For DSS purposes, hard of hearing will simply describe individuals with a degree of hearing loss for which they require classroom accommodation.

    Recommended providers include general physicians, otorhinolaryngologists, otologists, audiologists, and speech-language pathologists. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • A written statement of diagnosis and etiology
    • Specification of assessment procedures and instruments used to make the diagnosis
    • Current audiogram
    • Classification of the degree of hearing loss as to mild, moderate, or severe
    • Information regarding functional limitations and academic impact of the hearing loss
  • Learning Disabilities

    A learning disability is a disorder which affects the manner in which individuals with normal or average intelligence take in, retain, and express information. It is commonly recognized as a significant deficit in one of more of the following areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or problem solving.

    Recommended providers include trained, certified, and licensed clinical psychologists, school psychologists, neuropsychologists, learning disabilities specialist, and other professionals with training and experience relevant to adults and their environment. Acceptable documentation must include:

    Clear, specific evidence and identification of a learning disability. Whenever possible, use the DSM-IV to diagnose a learning disability. Documentation that names only “learning styles,” “learning differences” Or “learning difficulties,” will not demonstrate the existence of a disability. Comprehensive testing that addresses at least three of the following:

    • Aptitude: The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III (WAIS-III) with subtest scores is the preferred instrument.
    • Achievement: Current levels of functioning in reading. Mathematics and oral and written language are required. The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WAIS-II) and the Woodcock-Jackson III: Tests of Achievement. Standard and extended Batteries are preferred.
    • Information Processing: Specific areas of information processing (e.g. short- and long-term memory, sequential memory, auditory and visual perception/processing, processing speed) must be assessed. Information from subtests on the WAIS-III or the Woodcock-Jackson III Test of Cognitive Ability may be used to address these areas.
    • Please note that Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans alone are not sufficient documentation. However, they may provide useful information about services previously provided to the student, and therefore may be submitted with comprehensive report. Standard scores for all tests administered. Percentiles and grade equivalents alone are not sufficient. In addition to test scores, interpretation of the result in an integrated report is required.
    • A summary of a comprehensive diagnosis interview, to include a description of the presenting problem, the student’s developmental, educational, family medical, psychosocial, and employment histories as relevant, and discussion of dual diagnosis where indicated.
    • The rationale for any recommended academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, using test data to document the need.
    • Restrictions on activities imposed by the condition
  • Medical Disorders

    This broad category includes substantially limiting, permanent medical conditions which can range from conditions with narrow, highly localized affects to broad systemic conditions. Additionally, students with these disorders may be prescribed medications that cause severe side effects which further limit the student’s ability to function in an academic environment.

    Examples of medical disorders include, but are not limited to, diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, muscular dystrophy, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

    Recommended providers include general physicians and specialty physicians such as rheumatologist, oncologists, cardiologists, and neurologists. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • Written statement of diagnosis
    • Assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used in making the diagnosis
    • Information regarding symptoms of the disorder
    • Information regarding functional limitations of the disorder, especially as it will affect the student in an academic environment
    • Information regarding prescribed medications and possible side effects
    • Restrictions on activities imposed by the condition
  • Neurological Disorders

    These are disorders of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Examples include, but are not limited to, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, migraines, and acquired brain injuries.

    Recommended providers include neurologists, physiatrists, general physicians, and speech-language pathology (with advanced graduate degree). Acceptable documentation must include:

    • Written statements of diagnosis
    • Assessment procedures; diagnostic evaluation instruments
    • Information regarding current symptoms
    • Information regarding current limitations
    • Information regarding prescribed medications and possible side effects
    • Restrictions on activities imposed by condition
    • Where learning has been effected, the following
    • Narrative report of the most recent neuropsychological evaluation
  • Mobility/Orthopedic Disorders

    These are disorders resulting in mobility limitations of the upper and/or lower body. They may occur as a result of accident, progressive neuromuscular disease, congenital conditions, or repetitive motion stress injuries.

    Recommended providers include general physicians, podiatrists, neurologists, rheumatologists, cardiologists, and orthopedic surgeons. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • Written statement of diagnosis
    • Diagnosis procedures and results, if applicable
    • Information regarding current symptoms
    • Information regarding restrictions, if any
    • Information regarding functional limitations experienced by the student due to the disorder
    • Information regarding prescribed medication(s) and possible side effects
  • Psychiatric Disorders

    This category includes disorders of mood, cognition, stress, and dissociative disorders. Examples of specific diagnosis are: bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, major depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.

    Recommended providers include psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and school psychologist. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • A written statement of diagnosis, to include DSM-IV-current classification Information regarding current symptoms and degree severity
    • A written statement regarding the current impact/effect of the disorder on the student’s functioning, particularly as pertains to an academic environment.
    • Information regarding restrictions and/or limitations caused by disorder
    • Information regarding prescribed medication(s) and possible side effects.
  • Visual Disorders

    These disorders can be divided into two major categories: blindness and low vision. Blindness is the absence of vision, although there may be light and/or color perception. Low vision is generally defined as a visual acuity, in the better eye and with correction, of 200/70 or less. Conditions affecting vision include, but are not limited to, eye disease, structural abnormalities, color blindness, cataracts, and systemic diseases such as diabetes, strabismus, myopia and loss of visual field.

    Recommended providers include ophthalmologists, and physicians. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • A written statements of diagnosis
    • Diagnostic procedures and results
    • Information listing current symptoms and degree of severity
    • Information regarding functional limitations and possible impact in an academic environment
    • Information regarding prescribed medication(s) and possible side effects
    • Information regarding restrictions
  • Temporarily Disabling Conditions

    This category includes impermanent conditions which cause substantial limitations to one of more major life functions, necessitating that students require temporary assistance for a finite period of time. Temporarily disabling conditions typically occur as a result of surgery, accident, or serious illness.

    Recommended providers include physicians, dentists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, orthopedists, psychiatrists, physical or occupational therapists, and neurologists. Acceptable documentation must include:

    • Written statement of diagnosis
    • Diagnosis procedures, to include protocols, and results
    • Information regarding and listing of current symptoms and degree of severity
    • Information regarding functional limitations impact with an academic environment
    • Information regarding prescribed medication(s) and possible side effects
    • Specific information regarding duration of symptoms, functional limitations, restrictions, and use of medication
  • For Orthopedic/Mobility Related Conditions
    • Is the student ambulatory?
    • Is the injury weight bearing?
    • Estimation of distance student is permitted to walk/use crutches
    • Estimation of duration of above listed restrictions