Learning Disabilities

Students seeking accommodations for learning disabilities must provide a diagnostic report (such as a psychoeducational evaluation or neuropsychological assessment) that was completed no more than five years prior to the student's request for accommodations. More current documentation is always preferred since it puts SSD in a better position to determine reasonable accommodations and support. Nevertheless, it is generally not necessary for Northwestern's learning disability documentation purposes to update an evaluation after age 18. Diagnostic reports must be completed by qualified professionals and should include the following minimum requirements:

  • A clear statement of and explanation of the diagnosis. If the report does not contain a line in the diagnosis section stating that the individual has a learning disability, then, without further clarification, there is not valid documentation to support the presence of a learning disability or the need for academic accommodation. (Statements that the student has a "learning difficulty" or "learns differently" are not sufficient.)
  • Scores from the tests administered. The battery of tests used should contain widely accepted instruments such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale - Fourth Edition, the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Ability and Achievement, etc.
  • A history and background section detailing developmental milestones and relevant medical history, any previous evaluations and diagnoses, and any previously utilized accommodations or interventions (and their effectiveness). If the student is prescribed any medication, the medication(s) should be noted and a clear statement made as to whether the student was taking the medication(s) during the evaluation.
  • Recommendations and rationale for appropriate academic accommodations. The rationale of the appropriate accommodation must show a clear relationship with the student's particular type of disability. This is especially critical if the accommodations being requested include course requirement substitutions.

Letters stating only that the student has a learning disability but that do not provide any diagnostic information or evidence of a history of accommodation are not acceptable. An IEP or 504 Plan is not, by itself appropriate documentation of a learning disability at the post-secondary level but may be used to supplement documentation of disability.

SSD professional staff will review the documentation for diagnosis of a disabling condition and the functional limitations experienced by the student. The staff will determine the appropriate academic accommodations for each student based on the documentation provided. If the documentation is unclear, it may be referred to other professionals on campus for review and recommendation.

Students who are requesting a substitution of a degree or course requirement must provide documentation that the disability directly impacts their ability to fulfill the requirement. Although registered students with learning disabilities are generally not required to update or provide additional documentation during their tenure at Northwestern, additional documentation may be required if students make accommodation requests that are insufficiently supported by the already-submitted documentation after registering with SSD.