A learning disability (also known as a specific learning disorder) is marked by the following criteria:
1. Difficulties learning and using academic skills despite provision of interventions that target those difficulties. One of the following symptoms has persisted in the last six months:
- Inaccurate or slow and effortful word reading
- Difficulty understanding the meaning of what is read
- Difficulties with spelling
- Difficulties with written expression
- Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts, or calculation
- Difficulties with mathematical reasoning
2. These skills are lower than what would be expected for the person’s chronological age and significantly interfere with academic/occupational performance or activities of daily living.
3. Learning difficulties begin during school-age years but may not become fully manifest until the demands for those affected academic skills exceed the individual’s capacity.
4. Learning difficulties are not better accounted for by intellectual difficulties, auditory/vision problems, psychosocial adversity, lack of proficiency in the language of academic instruction, inadequate educational instruction, or other mental/neurological disorders.
Here are the three major domains of a Specific Learning Disorder:
1. Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Reading (sometimes referred to as “dyslexia,” although the terms are not completely interchangeable) – Could include impairment in the following subskills:
- Word reading accuracy
- Reading rate or fluency
- Reading comprehension
2. Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Written Expression – Could include impairment in the following subskills:
- Spelling accuracy
- Grammar and punctuation accuracy
- Accurate math reasoning
3. Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Mathematics – Could include impairment in the following subskills:
- Number sense
- Memorization of arithmetic facts
- Accurate or fluent calculation
- Accurate math reasoning
There are many situations in which learning may be negatively affected that do NOT qualify as a learning disorder. Here are some examples:
1. If you have trouble in classes due to English being your second language, this would not qualify as a disability and would not entitle you to accommodations.
2. If your learning disturbance appears to be related to emotional factors, it is unlikely that a learning disability exists, although you may qualify for accommodations for emotional disorders instead.
3. Generally, learning disorders are first diagnosed in elementary school or early in middle school/junior high. Thus, if you have had academic success throughout high school with relatively average effort, then chances are that you would not be diagnosed with a learning disability in college.
If you have already been diagnosed with a learning disability, there are a few steps necessary to receive help from the Accessibility Center:
1. Complete the online intake here.
2. Contact the UAC front desk (801-422-2767) and schedule an intake appointment with one of our learning disorder coordinators (Clay Frandsen, Donna Anderson, Bart Robbins). This appointment will take about 60 minutes and will review your history and symptoms.
3. Bring a copy of your documentation supporting your diagnosis to the Intake Appointment. If you do not have written documentation of your learning disorder, please print the Documentation of Disability form and have it completed by your medical professional, and return it to the University Accessibility Center in person or via fax (801-422-0174). The Documentation of Disability form can be found here.
4. During your Intake Appointment your coordinator will review your information and determine what accommodations and/or required further evaluation is applicable.
If your evaluation was completed when you were at least 16 years old, you will be considered eligible for accommodations for your entire term at the university. If your evaluation was completed when you were under the age of 16, your documentation will be considered valid for seven years from the date of the evaluation report. If your documentation has expired, updated documentation will be necessary.
The University Accessibility Center offers psychoeducational testing for students who believe that they may have learning, attentional, or cognitivse problems. The purpose of the testing is to assist qualified students by potentially providing accommodations while they are here at BYU. The testing is done for a very nominal fee ($150). If you would like to pursue an evaluation by the Accessibility Center, you will need to follow these steps:
1. Complete the online intake here.
2. Contact the UAC front desk (801-422-2767) and schedule an intake appointment with one of our learning disorder coordinators (Donna Anderson, Clay Frandsen, Clark Ripplinger, or LaNae Valentine). This appointment will take about 60 minutes and will review your history and symptoms.
3. At your intake appointment, talk to your coordinator with regard to being placed on the waiting list for testing. The typical waiting time for testing to begin is 2-3 months, although actual wait times will vary based on a student’s specific availability as well as overall student demand.
Here is some other important information:
- The testing is administered by graduate students in psychology and is supervised by licensed psychologists. If you were to visit a practitioner in the community, a comparable evaluation would cost approximately $1,500.
- Areas tested typically include cognitive ability, academic performance (reading, writing, and/or math), attention, and emotional functioning, but other areas (e.g., memory, neuropsychological functioning) can be measured as well.
- Testing is typically administered in 3-hour blocks approximately 1-2 times per week. Breaks are given during each testing session. The testing process is typically completed within 2-3 weeks, and the evaluation report is typically generated after an additional 4-6 weeks.
- If accommodations are recommended as a result of the testing process, you can schedule an accommodation review with your coordinator to discuss options following the completion of testing and the feedback session.
- You will be charged the testing fee ($150) online via My Financial Center and can pay with e-check or credit card. The charge on your account will appear on My Financial Center soon after our graduate student contacts you to schedule a testing appointment. You will then have a week in which to pay the fee.
If you need updated documentation, rather than undergo an assessment at the University Accessibility Center, you are welcome to have your psychoeducational evaluation completed by an outside evaluator and to bring it to the UAC. When selecting a private evaluator, it is recommended that the evaluation you receive encompasses the following two aspects:
- Intellectual Abilities: tested via the WAIS-IV, the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities – Third or Fourth Edition, or the Stanford-Binet V (other tests may qualify as well)
- Academic Achievement: tested via the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement – Third or Fourth Edition, or the WIAT-II (other tests may qualify as well)
A thorough evaluation is also likely to assess emotional factors (via the MMPI-2, PAI, MCMI-III, etc.) and attention (through ADHD questionnaires and/or a continuous performance test).