Disability Services Overview
It is the mission of the disability support services program to support the educational mission of the university by working to improve the educational development of ASU students with disabilities by encouraging them to develop skills that will help them:
- Communicate effectively
- Conduct realistic self-appraisals
- Enhance levels of self-esteem
- Make appropriate career choices
- Work independently and collaboratively
- Become self-advocates
- Achieve personal goals
In addition, the program works to enhance the understanding and support of students with disabilities within the campus community. In accomplishing this mission, the program works to ensure that qualified students with disabilities have equal access to all institutional programs and services and that the program advocates responsibly for the needs of students with disabilities.
Learning Disability Definition
Learning disabilities are disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, spelling, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical ability. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction and may occur across the life span. In addition, there may be problems with organizational skills, self-regulatory behaviors and social skills. A learning disability is NOT the result of:
- Mental illness
- Visual, hearing or motor impairments
- Mental retardation
- Emotional disturbance
- Environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage
Determining if You Have a Learning Disability
To be eligible for services and accommodations as a student with a disability, you must provide comprehensive documentation. Testing must have been completed within the last three years. The assessment must be of sufficient breadth and depth to cover a wide range of potential deficits, and to detect subtle psychological and executive functioning problems. Information needs to be provided about individual strengths and weaknesses to allow for more effective decisions regarding the most appropriate accommodations.
ASU Learning Disability Diagnostic Criteria
Professionals conducting this evaluation must be qualified to conduct an assessment, render a diagnosis of a specific learning disability and make recommendations for appropriate accommodations for adolescents and/or adults. The name, title and professional credentials of the evaluator (including information about licensure and/or certification) should be included on the report. Examples of professionals considered qualified to evaluate specific learning disabilities include clinical or educational psychologists, school psychologists and neuropsychologists. (Note: It is not appropriate for professionals to evaluate members of their own families.)
Although a diagnosed qualified learning disability is typically considered lifelong, the severity of the condition may change over time. Because reasonable accommodations and services are based on ASU’s assessment of the current impact of an individual’s disabilities on his/her academic performance, recent and appropriate documentation should be submitted. For the most part, comprehensive testing should have been conducted within the past three years.
A high school plan, such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan, is insufficient documentation of a disability. However, sometimes this type of documentation in addition to a current comprehensive assessment is useful in determining appropriate accommodations.
Actual test scores must logically reflect a substantial limitation to learning for which the individual is requesting the accommodations. Documentation should indicate a significant discrepancy calculation (based on professional standards) between measures of cognitive abilities and measures of academic achievement.
- Cognitive abilities are defined as the standard scores (or intelligence quotient) obtained on an intelligence test.
- Significant discrepancy is defined as a negative difference of more than 15 standard score points between the standard score on the intelligence test and the standard score obtained in an academic area. This discrepancy in scores must be documented in terms reported in the technical manual for the individual test instrument. Based on measures of cognitive abilities and academic achievement, a statistically significant discrepancy of at least one standard deviation shall be calculated in one or more of the following academic areas as measured by standardized tests:
- Reading/Reading Comprehension
- Written Expression
- Mathematics (Calculation and/or Applied Problems)
A comprehensive report should include the following:
- Diagnostic Interview: This should include (but is not limited to) relevant historical information regarding the individual’s academic history and learning processes in elementary, secondary and postsecondary education. The report should also include information summarizing previous testing completed by other clinicians. A combination of an individual self-report, interviews with others and historical documentation (transcripts, standardized testing, etc.) is recommended. Also, information should be provided summarizing any developmental history and current or relevant medical history, and must indicate the exclusion of the following as the primary handicapping condition:
- Mentally handicapped according to DSM IV standards
- Visually impaired
- Deaf or hard of hearing
- Physically impaired (and interferes with accurate test results)
- Emotionally disordered
- Poor educational background or lack of opportunity to learn
- Cultural differences or lack of experience with the English language
- Assessment of Cognitive Abilities: A minimum of one comprehensive IQ test is required
- Measurement of Academic Achievement: A standard score for the basic achievement areas of reading (word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension), math (calculation, application) and written language (mechanics, composition) needs to be available. Testing must include at least two achievement test scores in the specific area of the documented disability. (Note: Raw scores, standard scores and percentile scores are also required for each round of testing completed.) In general, most students will have average or above-average intelligence with a significant deficit in at least one area of academic achievement. Documentation of a learning disability must be based on the specific criteria outlined above.
- Summary of Assessment/Test Results: This should include a clear statement of the presence of a learning disability, discussion of possible alternative explanations for the results, a statement of functional limitations and suggestions for reasonable accommodations, which must be directly linked to the stated limitation and supported by the test scores.
The following standardized tests are used to measure learning disabilities and are recommended:
- Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, 2nd Edition (K-ABC, 2nd Edition)
- Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT)
- Leiter International Performance Scale
- Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, 4th Edition
- Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th Edition (WAIS-IV)
- Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ III) - Test of Cognitive Abilities
- Nelson-Denny Reading Test
- Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, 3rd Edition (PPVT-III)
- Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA)
- Stanford Test of Academic Skills (TASK)
- Test of Adolescent Language (TOAL-2)
- Test of Reading Comprehension (TORC)
- Test of Written Language Revised (TOWL-2)
- Test of Written Spelling Revised (TWS-2)
- Weschler Individual Achievement Test, 3rd Edition (WIAT III)
- Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery, 3rd Edition (WJ-III), Part II, Tests of Achievement
- Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, 2nd Edition (KTEA-II)
Learning Disability Accommodations
Accommodations are determined on an individual basis. The documentation must provide evidence of deficiencies that justify putting the accommodation(s) into place. In addition, students can use many techniques on their own, such as effective study and time management practices, which will help make them more successful in the classroom.
Disclosing or Not Disclosing a Disability
Students have the right not to provide documentation of a learning disability. However, ASU is under no obligation to provide accommodations if a student does not identify him/herself. If a student discloses a disabling condition to a faculty or staff member, that person should refer the student to the Student Affairs Office for the verification of the disability and determination of appropriate accommodations. Faculty and staff members are not authorized to provide accommodations prior to receiving official notification from the Student Affairs Office.