The Academic Enrichment Center (AEC) is the College's disability services office, with the Director serving as the 504 Coordinator for students. Students need to submit Earlham's Disability Disclosure Form and appropriate documentation to initiate the disability process.
Quality documentation is essential in determining disability status and/or appropriate accommodations. Documentation should provide the College with a basic understanding of the student's disability, outline how the disability was diagnosed, and speak to the student’s current functional limitations.
Earlham College developed their documentation guidelines using information and guidelines from the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
Essential Elements of Quality Disability Documentation (AHEAD)
1. The credentials of the evaluator(s)
The best quality documentation is provided by a licensed or otherwise properly credentialed professional who has undergone appropriate and comprehensive training, has relevant experience, and has no personal relationship with the individual being evaluated. A good match between the credentials of the individual making the diagnosis and the condition being reported is expected (e.g., an orthopedic limitation might be documented by a physician, but not a licensed psychologist).
2. A diagnostic statement identifying the disability
Quality documentation includes a clear diagnostic statement that describes how the condition was diagnosed, provides information on the functional impact, and details the typical progression or prognosis of the condition. While diagnostic codes from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM) or the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) of the World Health Organization are helpful in providing this information, a full clinical description will also convey the necessary information.
3. A description of the diagnostic methodology used
Quality documentation includes a description of the diagnostic criteria, evaluation methods, procedures, tests and dates of administration, as well as a clinical narrative, observation, and specific results. Where appropriate to the nature of the disability, having both summary data and specific test scores (with the norming population identified) within the report is recommended.
Diagnostic methods that are congruent with the particular disability and current professional practices in the field are recommended. Methods may include formal instruments, medical examinations, structured interview protocols, performance observations and unstructured interviews. If results from informal, non-standardized or less common methods of evaluation are reported, an explanation of their role and significance in the diagnostic process will strengthen their value in providing useful information.
4. A description of the current functional limitations
Information on how the disabling condition(s) currently impacts the individual provides useful information for both establishing a disability and identifying possible accommodations. A combination of the results of formal evaluation procedures, clinical narrative, and the individual’s self report is the most comprehensive approach to fully documenting impact. The best quality documentation is thorough enough to demonstrate whether and how a major life activity is substantially limited by providing a clear sense of the severity, frequency and pervasiveness of the condition(s).
While relatively recent documentation is recommended in most circumstances, common sense and discretion in accepting older documentation of conditions that are permanent or non-varying is recommended. Likewise, changing conditions and/or changes in how the condition impacts the individual brought on by growth and development may warrant more frequent updates in order to provide an accurate picture. It is important to remember that documentation is not time-bound; the need for recent documentation depends on the facts and circumstances of the individual’s condition.
5. A description of the expected progression or stability of the disability
It is helpful when documentation provides information on expected changes in the functional impact of the disability over time and context. Information on the cyclical or episodic nature of the disability and known or suspected environmental triggers to episodes provides opportunities to anticipate and plan for varying functional impacts. If the condition is not stable, information on interventions (including the individual’s own strategies) for exacerbations and recommended timelines for re-evaluation are most helpful.
6. A description of current and past accommodations, services and/or medications
The most comprehensive documentation will include a description of both current and past medications, auxiliary aids, assistive devices, support services, and accommodations, including their effectiveness in ameliorating functional impacts of the disability. A discussion of any significant side effects from current medications or services that may impact physical, perceptual, behavioral or cognitive performance is helpful when included in the report. While accommodations provided in another setting are not binding on the current institution, they may provide insight in making current decisions.
7. Recommendations for accommodations, adaptive devices, assistive services, compensatory strategies, and/or collateral support services
Recommendations from professionals with a history of working with the individual provide valuable information for review and the planning process. It is most helpful when recommended accommodations and strategies are logically related to functional limitations; if connections are not obvious, a clear explanation of their relationship can be useful in decision-making. While the post-secondary institution has no obligation to provide or adopt recommendations made by outside entities, those that are congruent with the programs, services, and benefits offered by the college or program may be appropriate. When recommendations go beyond equitable and inclusive services and benefits, they may still be useful in suggesting alternative accommodations and/or services.
Documentation Guidelines for Learning Disabilities
PDF of Guidelines for Learning Disabilities
A diagnostic report of high quality is required to document the diagnosis of a learning disability. The report must validate the need for services based on the student’s current level of functioning.
A high quality diagnostic report contains comprehensive narrative about the diagnostic interview, the assessment battery of aptitude, academic achievement, and information processing, and a diagnostic summary. The summary should indicate the presence of a learning disability that substantially limits the major life activity of learning. Suggested recommendations for accommodations are also helpful.
Professionals administering assessments and determining diagnoses of learning disabilities must be qualified to do so. Diagnostic reports must include the names, titles, and license numbers of the evaluators as well as the date(s) of testing.
The assessment battery must have been completed within the past five years to be considered current. Examples of acceptable testing instruments are below.
APTITUDE (include all subtests):
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – (WAIS-III or WAIS-R)
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III)
Kaufman Adolescent and Adult Intelligence Test
Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA)
Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK)
Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-educational Battery – Revised: Tests of Achievement Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT)
AND/OR SPECIFIC ACHIEVEMENT TESTS:
Nelson-Denny Reading Skills Test
Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test
Test of Written Language – 3 (TOWL-3)
Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests – Revised
Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude – (DTLA-3) or
Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude – Adult (DTLA-A)
Information from subtests on WAIS-R or
Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-educational Battery – Revised
When a student’s second language acquisition is a concern, it is helpful to include the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT). The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing for ages 7-24 (CTOPP) and an official letter from the student’s high school stating the background history of the student’s language acquisition level and/or substitution rationale is also helpful.
Below are certification forms for other disabilities. Students should take the applicable form to their appropriately licensed professional for completion.
Certification Form for AD/HD Diagnosis
Certification Form for Psychiatric Diagnosis
Certification Form for Medical/Physical Diagnosis
Academic accommodations and auxiliary aids may include (but are not limited to):
- providing note-takers and computer assistance
- assistance in obtaining books on tape
- extended time for tests and quizzes and/or assistance via computer technology
- a testing environment with limited distractions
- the substitution of appropriate courses for the second language requirement.
Technological assistance available from the Center for Academic Enrichment:
- Kurzweil 1000 and 3000: scan/read software
- Limited Braille text with Duxbury Software and Braille embosser
- Tactile Image Enhancer
A full description of Earlham's policy and grievance procedures for students with disabilities is online.