Learning Disability Practices for Assessment and Accommodation

Revised October 2010

I. Definition of a Learning Disability

A learning disability is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by difficulty in achieving major life activities (such as listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities). Due to neurological dysfunction, these disorders occur in persons of average to very superior intelligence. Even though a learning disability may exist concomitantly with other disabling conditions (e.g. sensory impairment) or environmental influences (e.g., cultural/language differences/ or conditions defined in the current DSM); it is not the direct result of those conditions or influences.

II. Student Responsibility for Verification of a Learning Disability

It is the legal responsibility of each student seeking accommodations from California State University, Sacramento to provide a written, comprehensive psycho educational evaluation.

III. Assessment Providers

California State University, Sacramento does not currently offer assessment and diagnostic services for learning disabilities. Any licensed educational psychologist, neurologist, or learning disabilities specialist can administer the assessments.

Students are encouraged to consult with their health care provider and/or health insurance company regarding possible coverage for an assessment and if there are qualified providers who can perform an assessment.

Refer to local educational resources such as local community college or school district for additional referral services.

IV. Documentation

Assessment must be comprehensive and include an assessment from each of the following categories. The following list is based on the AHEAD guidelines and ETS policy and is provided as a helpful resource but is not intended to be definitive or exhaustive.

1. Aptitude/Cognitive Ability:

• Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III) 
• Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) 
• Woodcock-Johnson-Third Edition: Tests of Cognitive Ability (WJ-III) 
• Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test 
• Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scale (RIAS) 
• Stanford-Binet (SB5) 
• Test of Non-Verbal Intelligence (TONI-3) 

2. Academic Achievement:

• Woodcock-Johnson-Third Edition: Tests of Achievement (WJ-III) 
• Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III)

Or specific achievement tests such as: 

• Nelson-Denny Reading Skills Test (Form G& H) 
• Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test 
• Test of Written Language-3 (TOWL-3) 
• Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT 4th ed.) 
• Spadafore Diagnostic Reading Test 

3. Test Scores

Standard scores and/or percentiles should be provided for all normed measures. Grade equivalents are not useful unless standard scores and/or percentiles are also included. The data should logically reflect a difficulty in achieving in a major activity, such as a 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 the functional limitations that may necessitate accommodations.

V. Currency of Assessment

Because the provision of all academic accommodations is based on the impact of a disability on current academic performance, the psycho educational assessment must have been conducted using adult norms. It is preferred that it was done no earlier than three years prior to the student’s initial request for disability-related services at the University.

VI. Diagnostic Assessment Report Must Include:

  1. Clinician’s name, title, license number, phone number, summary of all instruments, procedures, and date (s) of the assessment.
    • Documentation will not be accepted when done by a relative/family member of the student.
  2. Written summary of educational, medical, family histories and behavioral observations.
  3. All assessment scores (subtest and standard scores, percentiles) and a detailed interpretation of the results, including strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Clearly described intracognitive and aptitude-achievement discrepancies reflecting significance criteria, or the clinician’s rational for clinical judgment. Eligibility criteria for learning disability support services should be in line with the following specific guidelines.
    1. Significant intra-cognitive discrepancy(ies) of at least one standard deviation as measured by technically adequate, standardized instruments of aptitude (e. g., Verbal Comprehension vs. Perceptual Organization, Verbal Comprehension vs. Working Memory on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV).
      OR
    2. Significant aptitude-achievement discrepancy(ies) at least one standard deviation as measured by technically adequate, standardized instruments of aptitude (e. g., Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition, Woodcock-Johnson-Third Edition Tests of Cognitive Abilities and Woodcock-Johnson Third Edition Tests of Achievement).
      AND
    3. At least one standard score in the Average Range, or above of aptitude (i.e., Standard Score =90 or above / 25th percentile or above) as measured by technically adequate, standardized instruments of aptitude.
      AND
    4. An average or greater score (i.e., Standard Score =90 or above / 25th percentile or above) in at least one academic area as measured by technically adequate, standardized instruments of achievement

Diagnosis and Summary 
All of the aforementioned information should lead to a written diagnostic summary regarding the presence or absence of a learning disability(ies).

Prior Verification 
In some instances, documentation may be outdated or inadequate in scope or content. In other instances, it may not address the student’s current level of functioning or need for accommodations and support services because observed changes may have occurred in the student’s performance since the previous assessment was conducted. Testing/evaluation results should generally be dated no more than three (3) for high school students and five years (5) for adults. Consequently, it may be appropriate for a qualified professional to update the evaluation report. The purpose of this update is to determine the student’s current need for accommodations and support services and should include a rationale for ongoing accommodations and support services.

In order to receive accommodations and support services, prior verification must meet the same guidelines as outlined previously. A diagnosis of a learning disability documented by a qualified professional (whether in private practice or in a previous school setting) does not automatically guarantee that identical accommodations and support services will be provided.

Documentation for students who have been determined eligible for accommodations and support services according to the criteria established by the California Community College system will be reviewed in accordance with the above prescribed CSU methodology and criteria.

If accommodations and support services are not clearly identified and supported by history and test results, the CSU will seek clarification and more information. The final determination for providing appropriate and reasonable accommodations and support services rests with the CSU campus.

It is important to recognize that needed accommodations and support services can change over time and are not always identified through an initial diagnostic process. Conversely, a prior history of accommodation(s) does not, in and of itself, warrant the provision of a similar accommodation(s). Accommodations and support services will be directly related to the diagnostic results. The final determination of appropriate and reasonable accommodations and support services rests with the CSU campus. 

VII. Academic Accommodations

  • Designed to meet a student’s disability-related needs without fundamentally altering the nature of the instructional program or altering any directly related licensing program.
  • Not intended to provide remediation (instruction in basic skills not acquired earlier in the educational process; e.g. basic grammar, basic math, English as a Second Language, etc.).
  • Specific support services will be authorized on case by case basis upon receipt of the assessment documenting the diagnosis of a learning disability.

VIII. Student Appeal Process

Pursuant to Section 504 and the ADA, students with disabilities who are denied a requested accommodation may appeal the decision through on-campus informal and formal accommodation dispute resolution processes.

For the full text of the CSU Guidelines for the Assessment and Verification of Students with Learning Disabilities see http://www.calstate.edu/AcadAff/codedmemos/AA-2009-27.pdf, Appendix A.