Policies and Procedures
The following guidelines for documenting disabilities are provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Amended Act of 2008 (ADAA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to assist both the student and his/her evaluator in providing appropriate documentation to Disability and Access Services. Documentation serves as the foundation that explains and legitimizes a student’s request for appropriate accommodations in the post secondary setting. The professional providing this information must possess: appropriate professional credentials, first hand knowledge of the student’s condition, and experience and training diagnosing and treating the particular condition in question. The evaluator must be an impartial professional provider who is not related to the student. The documentation should be mailed directly from the evaluator/medical provider to MIT Disability and Access Services at the mailing address listed on our home web page.
Documentation for all disabilities must include
- A clear statement of each condition, including specifying the diagnosis(es) using standard nomenclature, and characterizing ongoing treatment, prognosis, and a differential diagnosis, as appropriate.
- Dates of the professional's first meeting and most recent meeting with student.
- A detailed summary of evaluation procedures employed, and resulting diagnostic/testing data used to make the diagnosis, including the date on which the diagnosis was conferred and the date(s) of any tests, studies or ancillary evaluations that were utilized in making/confirming the diagnosis. NOTE: documentation for eligibility should be reasonably current and reflective of the student's recent level of functioning.
- A statement attesting that the professional's diagnostic opinion is held to a reasonable degree of professional certainty.
- Reference to medications and any side effects that may hinder/assist the student's ability to process information and otherwise function in an academic environment.
- A description of any aids, prostheses, adaptations or strategies used by the student to compensate for his/her underlying condition.
- A statement reflecting the student’s compliance with the evaluator's treatment plan, including compliance with medication management, if relevant.
- The past and current functional impact or limitations of the condition on the student's capacity to function in an academic setting. This includes reference to underlying intellectual, cognitive, sensory, motor, emotional and/or interpersonal capabilities and how these impact the condition, the manner and/or the duration of the student's performance of major life activities. This aspect is critical to determining eligibility for accommodations since the mere presence of an underlying condition does not equate to a disability under the terms of the ADA, ADAA or Rehabilitation Act.
- Recommended accommodation(s). Each recommended accommodation should be specified in as great a detail as possible (e.g., "50% extended time on essay type, in-class examinations" versus "additional time") and should be necessary in order for the student to access his/her educational program, activities and services. Each recommended accommodation should be accompanied by an explanation of its relevance to the disability that has been diagnosed. Accommodations that are deemed to be unreasonable in a college-level setting will not be honored. (Although we value and require input from students and their evaluators, ultimately MIT Disability and Access Services will make the determination as to whether a particular accommodation is necessary and reasonable under the circumstances.)
All students who wish to receive academic adjustments need to provide all of the above information, as well as the additional information specific to their disability, as outlined below.
Documentation must include the DSM-V-TR multi-axial diagnosis and a summary of present symptoms and the current treatment plan in a written report from a psychiatrist, licensed psychologist, certified social worker (CSW or ACSW) or licensed professional counselor. This report should include enough relevant historical information required to judge the severity and impact of the condition in question. Ideally, some objective data in support of diagnostic conclusions and recommended accommodations should be offered (e.g. results of standardized psychometric scales and instruments). Documentation may need to be updated each semester, depending on the individual student’s circumstances.
Disorders that Manifest Developmentally
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Documentation must include a statement of presenting problem(s); evidence of early onset impairment and persisting dysfunction over the course of development; testing that verifies a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that currently affects learning, concentration, thinking, behavior or emotional function; identification of which DSM-V-TR criteria for ADHD are currently met and which are not; a report summary and detailed rationales for accommodations using evidence from the evaluation. Submitting data from standardized psychometric instruments (such as Continuous Performance Tasks (CPTs) and/or paper and pencil measures of attention and executive function) that support the presence of functional deficits is recommended but not required. Professionals considered acceptable for evaluating ADHD are licensed physicians, neuropsychologists, psychologists, certified social workers and psychiatric nurse practitioners.
- Learning Disabilities: Evaluations, which generally should have been performed within the past three years, should validate the need for services based on the individual's current level of functioning in the educational setting. A school plan such as an individualized education program (IEP) or a 504 plan is not sufficient for this purpose, but it may be included as part of a more comprehensive assessment battery. The results of that comprehensive assessment battery should be communicated in the form of a detailed diagnostic report which should be signed by the evaluator and submitted on his/her official letterhead directly to the Disability and Access Services office. That report must include the following components: relevant past and present educational, medical, psychiatric and psychosocial data, a validity statement, the findings on diagnostic interview, behavioral observations, assessment of aptitude, academic achievement, information processing, and a differential diagnosis. Assessment, and any resulting diagnosis, should consist of and be based upon a comprehensive assessment battery and a pattern of test scores which support the evaluator's conclusions. Reliance on a single test or anomalous score will not be sufficient to establish a disabling condition. Individual "learning styles," "learning differences," "academic problems," and "test difficulty or anxiety," or "relative weaknesses" in and of themselves, do not constitute a learning disability. The tests used should be reflective of the current version and be reliable, valid and standardized for use with an adolescent/adult population. The test findings should document both the nature and severity of the learning disability. The following professionals would generally be considered qualified to evaluate specific learning disabilities provided that they have additional training and experience in the assessment of learning problems in adolescents and adults: clinical or educational psychologists, school psychologists, neuropsychologists, learning disabilities specialists.
- Asperger's Syndrome: Thorough history by a development pediatrician or a medical doctor with expertise in diagnosing and treating developmental disorders. Comprehensive neuropsychological examination, within the past three years. Academic testing – standardized achievement tests, including scores; and a review of the academic record. Current social/emotional functioning if not in neuropsychological evaluation, then by separate evaluator. Clear identification of DSM-V criteria³.
³Copyright 2004: Jane Thierfield-Brown, University of Connecticut Law School. Kathleen Monagle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Disability and Access Services protects the confidentiality of student documentation records. However, in granting an accommodation, the Disability and Access Services staff has the right to review pertinent information with individuals identified by the staff as necessary participants in the decision-making process and/or accommodation determination process (instructors, academic advisors, medical staff, student's health professionals, and appropriate experts in the field.) If a diagnostic report or evaluation fails to clearly establish the existence of a disability and/or identify or support the need for auxiliary aids and services, academic adjustments and/or accommodations, the Disability and Access Services staff may seek clarification or input from qualified, outside professionals and experts.
All inquiries are welcome at das-student [at] mit.edu.