Guidelines for documenting psychological disabilities
A qualified evaluator
Professionals who are conducting assessments, providing the diagnosis and making recommendations for appropriate accommodations must be qualified to do so. Evaluators should be licensed professionals with comprehensive training and expertise in mental health who are skilled in the differential diagnosis of psychiatric disorders. These include neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, counselors and psychiatric nurse practitioners. Documentation must meet the following criteria:
- Include evaluator’s name, title and professional credentials.
- Be typed, dated and signed on the professional’s letterhead.
- Evaluator may not be a family member.
Must be current: Reasonable accommodations are based on the current impact of a disability. It is essential for psychological documentation to address an individual’s current level of functioning and present need for accommodations. Due to the changing nature of psychological disabilities, a report from a treating mental health professional completed within the past twelve months is considered current. The documentation must be updated annually.
Must be comprehensive: Documentation must include:
- A discussion of:
- Relevant developmental, historical and familial information.
- Evidence of current functional impairment.
- Duration and severity of the disorder.
- Expected progression or stability of the impact of the condition over time.
- A clear diagnosis of psychiatric disorder based on DSM-IV criteria, which includes:
- A clearly stated diagnosis, subtype if applicable, and diagnostic code.
- A list of DSM-IV diagnostic criteria as the basis for the diagnosis.
- Evidence of the ruling out of other potential diagnoses.
- A description of how the diagnosis substantially impacts a major life activity/activities.
- Cannot include wording such as “seems to indicate” or “suggests.”
- Test anxiety is not an accommodated disability.
- A description of current and past treatments, therapeutic techniques, assistive devices and medication used to alleviate the impact of the disability.
- A description of current functional limitations of the individual in an academic environment.
- If the condition is episodic in nature, level of functioning should be assessed based on active phase of symptoms.
- A discussion of specific recommendations for academic accommodations.
- If psychological instruments have been used by the evaluator, testing should be current with an explanation of validity, reliability and purpose. Scores should be provided in raw, standardized and/or percentile ranks.
May include supporting information: To better understand and accommodate students with a psychological/psychiatric disability, other helpful documents may be provided. These include:
- Records of previous accommodations
- High school IEPs or 504 plans
- Previous psychological evaluations and teacher/employer reports.