Services for Students with Disabilities

The following are the criteria to be applied for determining a Learning Disability (LD) among U of M students. The purpose of these criteria is twofold: first, they give practitioners a set of guidelines to follow when evaluating U of M students for learning problems and secondly, they are used to determine a student's eligibility for receiving services that are directly provided by SSD and for receiving accommodations that SSD recommends. Any student, who requests services and accommodations and does not meet the University's Criteria of an LD, shall have his/her documentation automatically sent to the Diagnostic Review Committee to consider whether academic accommodations and services shall be provided.

It is also noted that there have been some recent changes in the regulations that cover the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Parents, Educators and Clinicians are reminded that once a student has graduated from the secondary school system they no longer fall under the protection of the IDEA and instead receive services at the post-secondary level due to two pieces of civil rights legislation-The 1973 Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section-504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Parents, Educators and Clinicians are strongly encouraged to find out the educational implication of going from an IDEA environment to a 504/ADA environment. The Coordinator of Services for LD at the University of Michigan is willing to discuss these differences with you.

As part of the new regulation of the IDEA, students will be given a "Summary of Performance" (SOP) by their high schools during the students' last IEP meeting. This SOP is not intended to and may not be sufficient for documentation purposes at the University of Michigan and families will be financially responsible for providing the documentation that is required. Parents are encouraged to have their students be given a psychological assessment by the school district which includes both intellectual and academic achievement testing during the student's sophomore or junior year of high school.

At the University we are most concerned with student's "current functional limitations" and the objective data that supports the presence of those limitations. The diagnostic report that is sent to the Disability Office must include: All scores that are given on any of the psychological tests that were administered to the student, an accounting of the history of past accommodations that were effective, a clear rationale for the current accommodations that are directly tied to the current testing data, all reports need to be signed, with the examiners credentials and license number on it and all reports should be on letterhead. Any failure to comply with this policy may mean delaying a student's receiving academic accommodations.

In order for a diagnosis of LD to be made, at least three criteria must be met:
  1. The presence of a problem. That is, a student must come forward and express a concern about his or her academic performance.
  2. Academic achievement level(s) significantly below expectations (i.e. lower or poor academic performance).
  3. On normed-referenced standardized testing, an overall or verbal IQ score that is at least in the average range, if not higher, with some specific areas of academic achievement that are minimally one standard deviation below measured intellectual ability level. (This last criterion is often referred to as an aptitude achievement discrepancy.)

The only measures of aptitude that can be used in the determination of this discrepancy are the Wechsler ADULT Intelligence Scale (current version), The Wechsler Verbal IQ score (the abbreviated versions of this testing instrument are not acceptable) and the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities (current version), Broad Cognitive Ability score. When determining the size of the discrepancy, only the exact standard scores may be used. This does not preclude the use of regression formulas for those who are familiar and comfortable with this procedure. It is understood that on occasion professional clinical judgment may be used to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of LD and that the qualitative features of the evaluation instruments may be utilized by the professional when determining a diagnosis.

In those cases where professional judgment was used to make a diagnosis of a Learning Disability the student's documentation will immediately be sent to the diagnostic review panel. The only professionals recognized as being qualified to make an LD diagnosis are licensed psychologists trained in either psychological, neuropsychological and/or psych educational testing, or learning disability specialists with similar training and credentials (i.e., licensed or certified by the state). In addition, the Diagnostic Review Committee and/or office of Services for Students with Disabilities reserves for itself the right to require its own evaluation of a student when it is dissatisfied with the quality of the presenting documentation.

Other diagnostic profiles may also be included in the category of learning or cognitive disabilities (e.g. Acquired / Traumatic Brain Injury, Asperger's Syndrome, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities, Auditory Processing Disorder, Visual Processing Disorder, etc.) Even with these disorders SSD will be assessing the documentation for what are the current functional limitations, or how is the student's ability to learn being significantly impacted by their disability. Students and families will have to provide recent assessments to verify the functional limitations in accordance to the policy laid out regarding LD (i.e. testing done using adult-normed tests and the existence of a clear discrepancy that will impact and significantly interfere with the learning process.) Recent, objective evidence must be provided that clearly demonstrates how an area of academic achievement is being impacted and how severe this deficit is that it warrants academic accommodations.

To Register with SSD

For a Learning Disability you must have a current (no more than five years old and done when the student was 16 years or older, using an Adult Normed test) psychological evaluation that minimally includes both an intelligence test (e.g. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) and a broad based academic achievement test (e.g. Woodcock-Johnson or Wechsler Achievement). For more information, you can also contact the LD coordinators, Dr. Stuart Segal or Dr. Alfred Kellam directly.