Many learning disabilities are not readily observable, and the definition and etiological criteria used for diagnosing such impairments do not necessarily have consensual validation in the medical and psychological communities.
ABIM defines a “learning disability” as a specifically diagnosed learning disorder, based on standard nomenclature and diagnostic criteria, impacting one or more mental abilities such as using language, processing information and learning, that may be manifest in the ability to read, spell, write and perform mathematical operations.
For Test Takers
All requests for accommodations based on a learning disability should include the following pieces of documentation:
- A completed accommodations request form (pdf).
- A signed Verification and Release Form.
- A personal statement that includes the following. (You can use the request form above to complete your personal statement.)
- Your name and contact information
- Title of the exam for which you are requesting an accommodation
- Description of the specific accommodation you are requesting
- Description of any alternative accommodations
- Description of the nature of your impairment, including:
- When it was first identified or diagnosed
- When it was last evaluated and/or treated
- The name of the professional who evaluated and/or treated the condition
- How your impairment is accommodated in your daily life
- Your education history, including the following:
- A statement describing the impact that your condition has had in academic and vocational settings
- The name, location and dates of all schools attended from elementary school to the present
- Copies of all available grade reports, including your GPA from college and any post-graduate programs completed
- Copies of all available test scores on standardized testing from elementary school through the present, such as the SAT or MCAT
- A list and, where applicable, copies of approval letters for accommodations you have received for the stated impairment in the course of taking other tests or examinations in an academic setting, including a description of the accommodation and the documentation submitted with that request
- If the accommodation requested has been sought previously and denied, an explanation of the circumstances involved
- Description of any special education services provided by your school and the grades for which they were provided
- An indication of whether or not you received an individualized education plan (IEP) and the grades for which it was in effect
- If you have received no previous accommodations, then you should provide an explanation for why no accommodations have been received in the past and why accommodations are necessary now.
- A professional report confirming the presence, nature and extent of your impairment and the need for specific accommodation. Professional reports should be by a qualified and licensed/certified professional with specific and appropriate expertise evaluating adults with the impairment that you have. See the "For Evaluators" section below for details of what the report should contain.
- A comprehensive neuropsychological and/or psychoeducational evaluation conducted by a professional (psychiatrist or licensed psychologist) who regularly practices neuropsychology. The evaluation should have been performed while you were an adult and preferably within the last five years. See the "For Evaluators" section below for details of what this this evaluation should contain.
Note: Past failure of ABIM examinations does not, in and of itself, constitute objective evidence of a functional limitation due to a disability.
Your professional report should include:
- Your name, address and phone number
- Your area of specialty/expertise
- Description of the specific functional limitations caused by the test taker's impairment that require accommodation
- Description of the accommodations recommended by you
- Description of the history of treatment and/or rehabiliation efforts that the test taker has received for their impairment
- Documentation addressing whether the test taker's impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities within the meaning of the ADA
- Objective evidence of functional limitations:
- A list of all standardized test instruments and assessment procedures used to diagnose and evaluate the functional impact of your impairment
- Date(s) of assessments and/or treatment contacts upon which the your report and opinions are based
Your comprehensive neuropsychological and/or psychoeducational evaluation should include:
- A diagnostic interview that contains a description of the test taker's current complaints and difficulties. Relevant developmental and psychosocial histories should be addressed, including whether English was the your first language. For cases in which English was not the test taker's first language, the history should address the primary language spoken in the test taker's childhood home, when English was learned and what language(s) were utilized in the course of the test taker's education.
- A comprehensive and complete assessment of aptitude. The recommended evaluation procedure is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) because abbreviated measures such as the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence-Second Edition (WASI-II) do not provide a complete picture of an individual's relative strengths and weaknesses in order to assess functional impairment.
- Assessment of information, processing variables underlying the test taker's learning disability including both verbal and nonverbal assessments of attention, memory and other processing variables relevant to the disability in question.
- A comprehensive assessment of academic skills and achievement appropriate to the test taker's age. The achievement testing should be sufficiently comprehensive to cover skills in the areas of reading skills, including reading, spelling and arithmetic. To this end, comprehensive achievement test such as the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement or the Wechsler Individualized Achievement Test III is necessary. In addition, the achievement testing should include a timed, standardized reading comprehension test, such as the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (Form G or Form H). The Nelson-Denny Reading Test, however, does not include age norms, and therefore, scores should be provided based on thest test taker's current grade level as well as for first year college norms.
- Explicit, cognitive symptom validity measures, including raw scores for the symptom validity test(s) used.
- Test scores, in the form of standard scores and percentiles. All scores should be based on appropriate age norms, except in the case of a test for which no age norms are available. For tests that only have grade-based norms, scores should be provided for first year college norms, as well as the norms based on the your current grade.
- A specific diagnosis based on standard, accepted diagnostic nomenclature and supported by the history and objective test data.