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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 (2009). The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

  • Substantially limits, under ADA, refers to significant restrictions as to the condition, manner, or duration under which an individual can perform a particular major life activity as compared to most people.

  • Whether a condition is substantially limiting to support an accommodation request is a decision made by qualified professional(s) based upon multiple sources of information.

  • A clinical diagnosis is not synonymous with a disability. The specific symptoms that are present should be stated in the documentation. Evidence that these symptoms are associated with substantial impairment in a major life activity is required for provision of accommodations. A detailed description of current substantial limitation in the academic environment is essential to identify appropriate academic accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services. Specific requests for accommodations need to be linked to the student’s current functional limitations, and the rationale for each recommendation clearly stated.

General Documentation Guidelines

  • All institutions are required to have written policies and procedures for review of documentation submitted by students with disabilities. Decision-making for the provision of institutional-level accommodation is provided by the Office of Disability Services (ODS) or a designated office at an individual college or university.

  • Secondary education eligibility reports, Individualized Educational Plans, Summary of Progress reports, or previous provision of special education services may not be sufficient documentation for college-level accommodations.

  • Documentation should provide a diagnostic statement identifying the disability, describe the diagnostic criteria and methodology used to diagnose the condition, and detail the progression of the condition if its impact on the student’s functioning is expected to change over time.

  • Documentation should provide an adequate representation of the student’s current functional abilities. In most situations, documentation should be within three years of the student’s application for services. Professional judgment, however, must be used in accepting older documentation of conditions that are permanent or non-varying, or in requiring more recent documentation for conditions for which the functional impact may change over time.

  • Documentation must include the names, signatures, titles, and license numbers of the appropriate evaluators, as well as the dates of testing and contact information. Evaluators must be licensed professionals whose training and licensure status is consistent with expertise in the disability for which they provide documentation.


Appendix E: Specific Documentation Guidelines

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

  1. Learning disabilities
  2. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  3. Pervasive developmental disorders
  4. Acquired brain injuries
  5. Psychological disorders
  6. Sensory disorders
  7. Mobility disorders
  8. Systemic disorders
  9. Other disabilities

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

1. 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, mental retardation, 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. (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, Learning Disabilities: Issues on Definition, January, 1990.)

Specific documentation guidelines for Learning Disabilities include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • 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.

  • Since the manifestations of a learning disability may change over the period of childhood and adolescence, documentation must reflect either data collected within the past three years or after the age of 18.

  • Information gained from standardized assessment instruments is one essential piece of the methodology used to diagnose learning disabilities. Therefore, documentation of learning disabilities must include standardized measures of academic achievement and cognitive processing abilities that have age-appropriate normative data for high school/college students or older adult non-traditional students. All standardized measures must be represented by standard scores and percentile ranks based on published norms.

  • Documentation of a functional limitation(s) in one or more of the following areas of academic achievement:

    • Reading (decoding, fluency, and comprehension)
    • Mathematics (calculations, math fluency, and applied reasoning)
    • Written Language (spelling, fluency, and written expression)
  • Documentation of relative strength(s) in academic achievement in order to establish the presence of a significant discrepancy between academic domains. The presence of a significant discrepancy will typically require a difference of one standard deviation between scores. However, qualified professionals may use other widely accepted metrics for documenting a significant difference between two scores (e.g., standard error of measurement).

  • Documentation that alternative explanations for the academic limitation(s) have been considered and ruled out (e.g., low cognitive ability, lack of adequate instruction, emotional factors such as anxiety or depression).

  • Documentation of a pattern of cognitive processing weaknesses and strengths that is associated in a meaningful way with the identified area(s) of academic limitation.

  • Both processing weaknesses and processing strengths must be identified and must represent a significant discrepancy between cognitive domains. The presence of a significant discrepancy will typically require a difference of one standard deviation between scores. However, qualified professionals may document a significant difference between two scores using other widely accepted metrics (e.g., standard error of measurement).

  • Processing weaknesses and strengths must be evident on multiple measures and not based on a single discrepant score on an individual test or subtest. Cognitive Processing Skills (selection dependent upon case) include the following:

    • Attention
    • Executive Functions
    • Fluency/Automaticity
    • Memory/Learning
    • Oral Language
    • Phonological/Orthographic Processing
    • Visual-Motor
    • Visual-Perceptual/Visual-Spatial
  • Documentation that alternative explanations for the cognitive limitation(s) have been considered and ruled out (e.g., low cognitive ability, lack of adequate instruction, emotional factors such as anxiety or depression).

These guidelines are intended to guide the review of documentation and cannot substitute for the expertise and clinical judgment of a qualified professional. Failure to fully meet each of the above criteria does not automatically preclude a diagnosis of learning disabilities. In some circumstances, this diagnosis may be justified, based on an expert’s integration of a student’s history, test performance, and current functioning.

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2. 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. The manifestations of AD/HD result in functional impairment in at least two settings (e.g., academic, occupational, social). The diagnosis of AD/HD is based on the following specific criteria included in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association.

Specific documentation guidelines for AD/HD include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Diagnosis and corresponding code from the most recent DSM must be included.

  • Assessment of the following diagnostic criteria is required and evaluation results must be included in the documentation:

    • Developmental history of either inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms during childhood. The specific symptoms that were present in childhood should be stated in the documentation. Corroboration of childhood symptoms should be included, and may need to be gathered from a variety of possible data sources (e.g., parent/guardian report, school records, past evaluations). Evidence that these symptoms were associated with some functional impairment in home and/or school settings also must be included.

    • Current symptoms of either inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity must be present. The specific symptoms that are present should be stated in the documentation. Self-reported current symptoms should be corroborated by an independent informant who has been able to observe the student’s recent functioning with adequate regularity to provide this type of information. Evidence that these symptoms are associated with functional impairment in academic, occupational, and/or social settings also must be included.

    • The frequency/severity of both childhood and current AD/HD symptoms should be documented by comparison to individuals at a similar level of development. Documentation must include the results of standardized rating scales that provide comparison to age-based normative data.

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3. Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Pervasive developmental disorders are characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development including reciprocal social interaction skills, communication skills, or the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities. Several different disorders fall within this category including Asperger’s Disorder and Autistic Disorder.

Asperger’s Disorder

Asperger’s Disorder is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by qualitative impairment in social interactions and the presence of repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, interests, and activities.

Specific documentation guidelines for Asperger’s Disorder include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Diagnosis and corresponding code from the most recent DSM.

  • Assessment of the following diagnostic criteria is required and evaluation results must be included:

    • Developmental history that includes evidence of Asperger’s Disorder symptoms in childhood and documents the absence of clinically- significant general delay in early cognitive or language development.
    • Documentation of current qualitative impairment in social interaction.
    • Documentation of current restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
    • Assessment of broad cognitive ability and language function using standardized assessment measures with age-appropriate norms.

Autistic Disorder

Autistic Disorder is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by qualitative impairment in social interactions, qualitative impairment in communication affecting both verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and the presence of repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, interests, and activities.

  • Specific documentation guidelines for Autistic Disorder include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.

  • Diagnosis and corresponding code from the most recent DSM.

  • Assessment of the following diagnostic criteria is required and evaluation results must be included in the documentation:

    • Developmental history that includes evidence of Autistic Disorder symptoms in childhood
    • Documentation of current qualitative impairment in social interaction
    • Documentation of current qualitative impairment in communication
    • Documentation of current restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities
    • Assessment of broad cognitive ability and language function using standardized assessment measures with age-appropriate norms

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4. 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. 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.
  • Documentation of date of occurrence/diagnosis and the nature of the neurological illness or traumatic event that resulted in brain injury.
  • Depending upon the functional domains impacted by the injury, assessments of cognitive and academic deficits and strengths, psychosocial-emotional functioning, and/or motor/sensory abilities relevant to academic functioning may be essential components of documentation of the impact of an acquired brain injury for an individual student.
  • 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. More recent documentation may be necessary to adequately assess the student’s current accommodation needs.
  • Cognitive and academic processing weaknesses and strengths must be evident on multiple measures and not based on a single discrepant score:

    • Academic Achievement

      • Reading (decoding, fluency, and comprehension)
      • Mathematics (calculations, math fluency, applied reasoning)
      • Written Language (spelling, fluency, written expression)
    • Cognitive Processing Skills

      • Attention
      • Executive Functions
      • Fluency/Automaticity
      • Memory/Learning
      • Oral Language
      • Phonological/Orthographic Processing
      • Visual-Motor
      • Visual-Perceptual/Visual-Spatial

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5. Psychological Disorders

Some individuals experience significant disruptions in mood, thinking, and behavioral regulation that are secondary to a psychological disorder. 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. The symptoms and associated impairment may be either chronic or episodic. Test anxiety by itself is not considered a psychological disorder. Complete descriptions and diagnostic criteria for psychological disorders are available in the current version of the DSM.

Specific documentation guidelines for psychological disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.
  • DSM diagnosis and corresponding DSM code.
  • 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 academic performance resulting from the disorder.

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6. 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.
  • 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 academic performance resulting from the disorder.

Visual Disorders
Visual impairments are disorders in the function of the eyes that cannot be 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 extremely limited (light, color or shadow perception only).

Specific documentation requirements for visual disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.
  • 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 academic performance resulting from the disorder.

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7. 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.
  • 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 academic performance resulting from the disorder.

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8. 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 are often unstable therefore, the need for and type of reasonable accommodations may change over time.

Specific documentation requirements for systemic disorders include the following:

  • General documentation guidelines listed in Appendix D.
  • 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 academic performance resulting from the disorder.

9. Other Disabilities

Disabilities as defined by the ADA that are not covered by the guidelines described above may be eligible for accommodations to USG policies.


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 at Georgia Southern
Albany State University Georgia Southern University
Armstrong State University Middle Georgia College
Bainbridge State College Savannah State University
College of Coastal Georgia South Georgia State College
Darton State College Valdosta State University
East Georgia State College  
Georgia State University
Atlanta Metropolitan College Georgia Southwestern State University
Clayton State UniversityGeorgia State University
Columbus State University Gordon State College
Dalton State CollegeKennesaw State University
Georgia Highlands CollegeUniversity of North Georgia
Georgia Institute of TechnologySouthern Polytechnic State University
Georgia Perimeter College University of West Georgia
University of Georgia
Georgia Gwinnett College Fort Valley State University
Middle Georgia State College Georgia Regents University
University of North Georgia, Oconee University of Georgia
Georgia College & State University E-Core

Appendix G: Referral Packet Flowchart

Referral Process


Appendix H: Admission Consideration Flowchart

Admission Consideration Flowchart


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