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Academic & Student Affairs Handbook

Appendices D - H

Appendix D: Disability Documentation

Definition of Disability

An individual must demonstrate that his/her condition meets the definition of a disability under the Rehabilitation Act (1973) and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990, and its Amendment, 2008). The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities when compared to most people in the general population.

Whether a condition is substantially limiting to support an accommodation request is a decision made by qualified professionals based upon multiple sources of information using an individualized assessment. The condition, manner, or duration of an individual’s performance of a major life activity may be useful in determining whether impairment results in a substantial limitation.

Notably, a clinical diagnosis is not synonymous with a disability. As described in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, diagnosis of a clinical disorder is insufficient for establishing a disability because “diagnosis does not imply a specific level of impairment or disability” and “impairments, abilities, and disabilities vary widely within each diagnostic category” (APA, 2013, p. 25). Greater information regarding functional limitations in major life activities is required to substantiate a disabling condition relative to most people in the general population.

Generally, the availability of mitigating measures to lessen the effects of a person’s disability will not change the analysis of whether the person has a qualifying disability.

Documentation Considered

The general and specific documentation guidelines detailed below are written for disability service providers, evaluators, and others who are responsible for making determinations of eligibility for academic accommodations in the University System of Georgia (USG) colleges and universities. The guidelines are intended to influence and direct the review of documentation by disability service providers, and encourage consistency of disability service delivery across the USG. During documentation reviews, all eligibility and accommodation decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis and will be informed by an interactive process. Notably, the criteria of the general and specific guidelines need not be met via a single stand-alone psychological, psychoeducational, or neuropsychological report. Institutions will consider all documentation, data, and information provided as potential evidence of a disability and need for accommodation. Considerable weight will be ascribed to documentation of previous diagnoses, disability determinations, and modifications and accommodations received (e.g., Individualized Education Plans [IEPs], Section 504 Plans, confirmation of accommodation eligibility on the SAT). Although considerable weight will be given to the information in various types of documentation, evidence of current substantial limitation should be indicated in the documentation so that appropriate accommodations can be provided. No single criterion in the specific documentation guidelines, in its presence or absence, will rule-in or rule-out eligibility.

Professionals seeking to provide a comprehensive evaluation that will document a disability and verify need for accommodations are encouraged to adhere to the USG guidelines.

General Documentation Guidelines

All institutions are required to have written policies and procedures for review of documentation submitted by students with disabilities. Academic accommodations are provided by the disabilities services office or a designated office at an individual college or university. Decisions for system-level accommodations for cognitive/linguistic disabilities (i.e., learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, acquired brain injuries, communication disorders, and psychological disorders) are made by the associated Regents’ Center for Learning Disorders. All disability eligibility and accommodation decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

In order to establish disability status and eligibility for disability services, institutions of the University System of Georgia require documentation from a qualified evaluator that:

  • attests to the presence of a disabling condition as defined by the ADA and
  • demonstrates substantial limitations impacting performance in the academic environment when compared to most people in the general population.

Documentation is used to determine eligibility for disability services, as well as to inform accommodation decision-making.

General documentation guidelines pertain to all disabilities. The following are provided to guide evaluators, students, and family members as they seek to document a disability under the ADA.

Appropriate evaluators

  • Evaluators must be licensed qualified professionals whose training and credentials are consistent with expertise in the disability for which they provide documentation and/or eligibility classification under the IDEA/Section 504.
  • Evaluators may not be friends or family members of the student.

Documentation of a physical and/or mental impairment

  • A diagnostic statement based on the most current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and/or International Classification of Diseases (ICD) should be included, unless the evaluator is unable to do so due to school system regulations.
  • Evaluators should demonstrate how the assessment results meet diagnostic criteria.
  • The progression of the condition should be detailed if its impact on the student’s functioning is expected to change over time.
  • Because diagnostic methodologies vary by disorder, further guidance for meeting this requirement can be found in the specific guidelines.

Documentation of a current substantial limitation in a major life activity

  • The substantial limitation in a major life activity should be described.
  • Quantitative and qualitative information should be used to demonstrate that the difficulties are substantially limiting when compared to most people in the general population.
  • Evidence that the difficulties are substantially limiting to the student in the academic environment should be presented.
  • Because substantial limitations may vary by disorder, further guidance for meeting this requirement can be found in the specific guidelines.
  • In some cases, documentation of a current substantial limitation in the educational domain may be difficult to produce due to use of effective accommodations and interventions. In such cases, the documentation of the substantial limitation should include a description of the substantially limited abilities and skills, the accommodations and interventions implemented to address those limitations, the degree of the effectiveness of each, and justification for continued need.

Accommodation recommendations

  • Any accommodation recommendations made must be supported by a rationale that explains the necessity based on the student’s measured impairments and current substantial limitations.
  • Documentation of accommodations approved in the past is encouraged but does not guarantee approval at the postsecondary level.

Identifying information of the evaluating professional.

  • Identifying information includes the names, signatures, titles, identifying credentials (e.g., license numbers), and contact information of evaluating professionals.
  • Dates of evaluations must be included.

Recency

In order to determine eligibility for disability services and provide the most appropriate accommodations and services, documentation should provide an adequate representation of the student’s current functional abilities. Conditions served vary by developmental course and functional impact. As a result, guidance regarding recency requirements is provided in the specific documentation guidelines for each disorder. However, professional judgment will be used in determining the acceptability of any documentation provided.

Provisional accommodations

For students with a documented history of disability whose documentation fails to meet USG guidelines, institutions are encouraged to provide accommodations provisionally for a period of time (usually one semester) that would be reasonably sufficient for the student to gather the necessary information.


Appendix E: Specific Documentation Guidelines

The following specific documentation guidelines are organized into nine disability categories:

Learning Disabilities
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Acquired Brain Injuries
Psychological Disorders
Sensory Disorders
Mobility Disorders
Systemic Disorders
Communication Disorders
Other Disabilities

In addition, all disability categories are required to follow the general documentation guidelines provided in Appendix D.

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical skills. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not, by themselves, constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other disabilities (e.g., sensory impairment, intellectual disability, serious emotional disturbance), or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences. (From the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, Learning Disabilities: Issues on Definition)

Specific documentation guidelines for Learning Disabilities include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within the past three years at the time of request for services or after the age of 18 so long as the documentation continues to represent current functioning.

  • Clear and specific identification of a learning disability must be stated. For example, the terms “Learning styles” or “Learning differences” are not synonymous with a learning disability.

  • Documentation of a developmental and educational history consistent with a learning disability.

  • Documentation of learning disabilities should include standardized measures of academic achievement, cognitive/linguistic processing, and/or intellectual functioning that have normative data representing the general population. All standardized measures must be represented by standard scores and percentile ranks based on published age-based norms.

  • Documentation of one or more cognitive/linguistic processing deficits that is associated in a meaningful way with the identified area(s) of academic limitation. Cognitive/linguistic processes commonly associated with academic achievement (selection dependent upon case) include the following:

    • Fluency/Automaticity
    • Executive functioning
    • Memory/Learning
    • Oral Language
    • Phonological Processing
    • Orthographic Processing
    • Visual-Motor
    • Visual-Perceptual/Visual-Spatial
  • Documentation suggesting that the academic limitations are unexpected is necessary. As a result, evidence that substantially limited areas of achievement fall significantly below higher-level cognitive and/or linguistic abilities (e.g., broad intellectual functioning, reasoning, vocabulary, crystallized knowledge) must be included.

  • Objective (quantitative and qualitative) evidence that symptoms are associated with significant functional impairment in the academic setting. In the case of Learning Disabilities, documentation must include evidence of substantial limitation(s) in one or more of the following areas of academic achievement:

    • Reading (decoding, fluency, and/or comprehension)
    • Mathematics (calculations, math fluency, and/or applied reasoning)
    • Written Language (spelling, fluency, and/or written expression)
  • Academic impairments, processing deficits, and evidence of intact functioning in other domains (e.g., higher-level cognitive functioning), should be evident on multiple measures.

  • Documentation that alternative explanations for the academic and cognitive/linguistic limitation(s) have been considered and ruled out (e.g., low cognitive ability, other mental or neurological disorders, lack of adequate education, visual or auditory dysfunction, emotional factors such as anxiety or depression, cultural/language differences, poor motivation, symptom exaggeration).

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

AD/HD is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development. By definition, the disorder is developmental in nature, and therefore, diagnosis requires the manifestation of several symptoms prior to age 12 years. Furthermore, a diagnosis of AD/HD is not sufficient, in and of itself, to determine appropriate accommodations. Therefore, objective data provided in a comprehensive assessment of cognitive processing and academic functioning may be required to establish the nature and severity of the student’s functional limitations. Such data may include, but are not limited to, the following: rating scale information, performance on continuous performance tasks, cognitive processing test results, and/or the results of achievement tests.

Specific documentation guidelines for AD/HD include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within the past three years at the time of request for services.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD.

  • Evidence of the following diagnostic criteria must be included in the documentation:

    • Some evidence, beyond simple self-report, of clinically significant inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms prior to the age of 12 (in accordance with the DSM). Possible data sources for evidence of early symptoms include the following: parent/guardian report, medical reports, school records, and past evaluations.
    • Evidence of current clinically significant symptoms of either inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity must be documented using appropriate standardized rating scales or norm-referenced measures of cognitive/executive functioning that provide comparisons to similarly aged individuals. However, in some cases, a detailed written statement from a qualified evaluator who has sufficient experience with the student and the student’s symptom history may be sufficient.
    • Symptom presence must be assessed using student self-report and corroborated by an independent informant who has been able to observe the student’s recent functioning.
    • Current clinically significant symptoms must be present in at least two settings and interfere with social, academic, or occupational functioning.
  • Verifiable evidence that symptoms are associated with significant functional impairment in the academic setting. Suggested sources for evidence of academic functional impairment include the results of a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation, school records, and/or a comprehensive clinical interview that is described in a written statement by the evaluator.

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Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders are characterized by impairment in several areas of development including social communication and social interaction across contexts, and the presence of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.

Specific documentation guidelines for Autism Spectrum Disorder include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within the past three years at the time of request for services.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD.

  • Assessment of the following diagnostic criteria is required and evaluation results should include:

    • Developmental history that includes evidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder symptoms in early childhood.
    • Documentation of current qualitative impairment in social interaction and social communication and their level of severity. A standardized assessment approach is encouraged (e.g. Autism Diagnostic Observation System; Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised; Social Communications Questionnaire).
    • Documentation of current restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities and their level of severity.
    • Assessment of broad cognitive ability using standardized assessment measures with age-appropriate norms (e.g., WAIS-IV, DAS, RIAS, C-TONI).
  • Documentation of current functional impact or limitation of the disability on learning or other major life activities and how it impacts the individual in the learning environment. This may be in the form of a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation, school records, and/or other relevant records.

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Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Brain injury can result from external trauma, such as a closed head or an object penetration injury, or internal trauma, such as a cerebral vascular accident or tumor. Additionally, individuals may acquire brain impairment as a result of neurological illnesses, such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. ABI can cause physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and vocational changes that can affect an individual for a short period of time or permanently. Depending on the location and extent of the injury, symptoms can vary widely. Understanding functional changes after an injury and resulting implications for education are more important than only knowing the cause or type of injury.

Specific documentation guidelines for ABI include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Impairments following an acquired brain injury may change rapidly in the weeks and months after the injury, and a more stable picture of residual weaknesses may not be apparent for 1-2 years after an injury. Therefore, timeframes for currency of documentation may vary substantially, and additional documentation may be necessary to adequately assess the student’s current accommodation needs.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD, if appropriate.

  • Documentation of the date or period of time of occurrence and diagnosis.

  • Documentation of the nature of the neurological illness or traumatic event that resulted in brain injury.

  • Objective (quantitative and qualitative) evidence that symptoms are associated with significant functional impairment in the academic setting. The functional impact of the brain injury must be documented by appropriate, objective measures (e.g., cognitive and academic skills, psychosocial-emotional functioning, and/or motor/sensory abilities) relevant to the academic environment.

Notably, in most cases, a concussion is a temporary condition that will require temporary accommodations for approximately one semester, as deemed appropriate by a qualified professional.

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Psychological Disorders

Many different psychological disorders can interfere with cognitive, emotional, and social functioning and may negatively impact a student’s ability to function in an academic environment. Some individuals experience significant disruptions in mood, thinking, and behavioral regulation that are secondary to a psychological disorder. The symptoms and associated impairment may be either chronic or episodic. Complete descriptions and diagnostic criteria for psychological disorders are available in the current version of the DSM or ICD. Test anxiety by itself is not considered a psychological disorder.

Specific documentation guidelines for psychological disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within three years at the time of request for services; however, more recent documentation may be required by a disability service provider on a case-by-case basis.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD.

  • Description of history, current symptoms, and severity of the disorder.

  • Additional descriptions of (1) the expected progression, duration, and stability of the condition and (2) relevant side effects of medications are strongly encouraged.

  • Description of current functional limitations impacting academic performance resulting from the disorder.

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Sensory Disorders

Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing experience a reduction in sensitivity to sound. Amplification may not assist the individual in interpreting auditory stimuli. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing from birth may experience lags in the development of speech and most often have language-based deficiencies.

Specific documentation requirements for hearing disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within three years of the request for services unless the condition is of a permanent and non-varying nature. However, if additional accommodations are requested due to changes in functional limitations, updated documentation may be requested.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD, if appropriate.

  • Description of the history, current symptoms, and severity of the disorder, (e.g., audiogram and audiological summary).

  • Description of the expected progression or stability of the disorder.

  • Description of the current functional limitations impacting the student in the academic setting.

Blind and Loss of Vision
Visual impairments are disorders in the function of the eyes that have not been adequately corrected by medical or surgical intervention, therapy, or conventional eyewear. Individuals with visual disorders may not have any usable vision or the vision may be significantly limited.

Specific documentation requirements for visual disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within three years of the request for services unless the condition is of a permanent and non-varying nature. However, if additional accommodations are requested due to changes in functional limitations, updated documentation may be requested.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD, if appropriate.

  • Description of the history, current symptoms, and severity of the disorder, (e.g., ocular report).

  • Description of the expected progression or stability of the disorder.

  • Description of the current functional limitations impacting the student in the academic setting.

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Mobility Disorders

Mobility impairments refer to conditions that limit a person’s coordination or ability to move. Some mobility impairments are congenital while others are the result of illness or physical injury. The functional abilities and limitations resulting from the impairment will vary from individual to individual.

Specific documentation requirements for mobility disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within three years of the request for services unless the condition is of a permanent and non-varying nature. However, if additional accommodations are requested due to changes in functional limitations, updated documentation may be requested.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD, if appropriate.

  • Description of the history, current symptoms, and severity of the disorder.

  • Description of the expected progression or stability of the disorder.

  • Description of the current functional limitations impacting the student in the academic setting.

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Systemic Disorders

Systemic disabilities are conditions affecting one or more of the body’s systems, including the respiratory, immunological neurological, circulatory, or digestive systems. Systemic disabilities may change over time. Therefore, the need for - and type of - reasonable accommodations may require updated documentation.

Specific documentation requirements for systemic disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within three years of the request for services unless the condition is of a permanent or non-varying nature. However, if additional accommodations are requested due to changes in functional limitations, updated documentation may be requested.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD, if appropriate.

  • Description of the history, current symptoms, and severity of the disorder.

  • Description of the expected progression or stability of the disorder.

  • Description of the current functional limitations impacting the student in the academic setting.

Communications Disorders

Communication disorders is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in language, speech and, communication. This includes difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including the production of sounds, articulation and fluency deficits, difficulty in the acquisition and production of language across modalities (i.e., spoken, written), and difficulties in the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication.

Specific documentation guidelines for Communication Disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Documentation should reflect data collected within the past three years at the time of request for services.

  • A diagnosis consistent with the most recent DSM/ICD.

  • Evaluation/Assessment of the following diagnostic criteria is required and evaluation results should include:

    • Developmental history of the communication difficulties in early childhood, unless acquired later in life, in which the resulting event and disorder history should be documented.
    • A summary of present symptoms which meet the criteria for diagnosis of a communication disorder.
    • Treatments, medications, accommodations/auxiliary aids, services currently prescribed or in use.
  • Objective (quantitative and qualitative) evidence that symptoms are associated with significant functional impairment in the academic setting. Suggested sources for evidence of academic functional impairment include the results of a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation, speech/language evaluation, neurological report, physical evaluation report, and/or school records.

Other Disabilities

Disabilities as defined by the ADA that are not covered by the guidelines described above may be eligible for accommodations within USG policies. For more information, please contact the disability services office or other designated office at the USG institution in which you are enrolled or seeking services.


Appendix F: Regents’ Centers for Learning Disorders

Each Regents’ Center for Learning Disorders (RCLD) is responsible for serving designated colleges and universities within a geographic region (referring institutions). The host institution serves as fiscal agent for each Center.

Georgia Southern University
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College East Georgia State College
Albany State University East Georgia State College - Statesboro
Armstrong State University Georgia Southern University
Bainbridge State College Savannah State University
College of Coastal Georgia South Georgia State College
Darton State College Valdosta State University
Georgia State University
Atlanta Metropolitan College Georgia Southwestern State University
Clayton State UniversityGeorgia State University
Perimeter College of Georgia State University
Columbus State University Gordon State College
Dalton State CollegeKennesaw State University
Georgia Highlands CollegeUniversity of West Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology
University of Georgia
Georgia Gwinnett College Fort Valley State University
Middle Georgia State University Augusta University
University of North Georgia University of Georgia
Georgia College & State University

Appendix G: Referral Packet Flowchart

Referral Process


Appendix H: Admission Consideration Flowchart

Admission Consideration Flowchart


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