LD Diagnosis: Legal Matters Legal Advocacy: Laws, Guidance, Complaints
WHO CAN MAKE A QUALIFIED DIAGNOSIS?
Federal disability laws require universities to accommodate students whose learning
disabilities make it difficult for them to complete normal degree requirements. In a case brought by 10 Boston University
students, U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris, agreed that university graduation requirements for certain math and language courses
placed an unfair burden on students with learning disabilities. Saris said that such requirements to produce a recent diagnosis of
learning disability from a physician or psychologist in order qualify for special accommodations from the university, such as
tutoring and extra time to complete tests and assignments, were "high hurdles" that placed emotional and financial burdens on
disabled students. She ordered the university to accept diagnoses of learning disability from any professional with a
master's degree in education (Chavez 1997).
HOW DOES TESTING TRANSLATE TO DIAGNOSIS?
(1) Standardized tests like the Wechsler Intelligence scales and tests of math ability are
used to compare individual performance with majority peer group performance. The formula for calculating "Math IQ" is Math Q= Math
Age divided by Chronological Age x 100. A score of 1-2 standard deviations below the mean (middle) score of the group is
considered "deficient." A score of 70-75 is extremely deficient (CTLM 1986, 49-50).
(2) A dyscalculia diagnosis in pre-school age children can be made when a child cannot
"perform simple quantitative operations" that should be "routine at his age (CTLM 1986, 50)."
(3) Developmental dyscalculia is present when a marked disproportion exists
between the student's developmental level and his general cognitive ability, on measurements of specific math abilities (CTLM
(4) Quantitative dyscalculia is a deficit in the skills of counting and
calculating (CTLM 1989, 71-72).
(5) Qualitative dyscalculia is the result of difficulties in comprehension of
instructions or the failure to master the skills required for an operation. When a student has not mastered the memorization of
number facts, he cannot benefit from this stored "verbalizable information about numbers" that is used with prior associations to
solve problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and square roots (CTLM 1989, 71-72).
(6) Intermediate dyscalculia involves the inability to operate with symbols
or numbers (CTLM 1989, 71-72).
(7) Normal intelligent quotients range between 90 and 110, with 100 being the average. Scores
above 110 are superior, and scores above 140 are very superior. The Educational Policies Commission estimates that 10% of the
population has IQ's of 120-136, while only 1% have IQ's 137 or above (Cutts and Moseley 1953, 17). In 1937, Terman and Merrill
published the following IQ classifications: 30-69, Mentally Defective; 70-79, Borderline Defective; 80-89 Low Average; 90-109,
Normal or Average; 120-139 Superior; 140-169 Very Superior (Moore 1981, 41). Standard IQ distribution and standard deviations differ by test instrument and norm group. (a)(b)(c)
(8) Use discretion when basing important decisions solely on IQ scores, which can vary over
time and across testing instruments. Fluctuations of 10 points have been seen in more than 3/4 of all students, 1/3 of student's
scores fluctuate by 20 or more points, scores of 1/10 of students vary by 30 points, and a few have scores that change by as many
as 45 points (Strang 1960, 16).
WHAT ARE COLLEGES OBLIGATED TO DO WITH AN LD DIAGNOSIS?
Three federal laws provide for accommodations for learning disabilities: the 1973
Rehabilitation Act, the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the 1990/1997 Americans with Disabilities Act. More
than 21,000 students each year get extra time to complete the SATs, and other entrance exams, because of diagnosed learning
disabilities. Some enlist exam assistants to help fill out the answer sheets- if proven problems in recording exist. Special
consideration should be given for learning disabled students despite poor test scores. Other university accommodations include:
paid tutors and note takers, extra time to complete assignments and tests, and waivers for course requirements that are
unreasonable due to the documented disability (Chavez 1997).
ACCESS ERIC. 1995. What Should Parents Know About Performance Assessment?
Parent Brochure. ACCESS ERIC. [on-line document] Available at: http://www.aspensys.com/eric. Internet.
Bagin. Carolyn B. and Lawrence M. Rudner.1998. What Should Parents Know About Standardized
Testing? Parent Brochure. ACCESS ERIC. [on-line document] Available at: http://www.aspensys.com/eric.
Center For Teaching/ Learning of Mathematics (CTLM). 1986. III. Progress of Dr.
Ladislav Kosc's Work on Dyscalculia. Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics Volume 8: 3&4. (summer &
Elliott, Steven N. 1995. Creating Meaningful Performance Assessments. Reston, VA: The
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education and the Council for Exceptional Children. ERIC EC, Digest #E531. [on-line
document] Available at: http://www.cec.sped.org/digests/e531.htm. Internet.
Karnes, Frances A. and Ronald Marquardt. 1997. Know Your Legal Rights in Gifted
Education. Reston, VA: The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education and the Council for Exceptional Children.
ERIC EC, Digest #E541. [on-line document] Available at: http://www.cec.sped.org/digests/e541.htm. Internet
Knoblauch, Bernadette and Barbara Sorenson. 1998. IDEA's Definition of
Disabilities. Reston, VA: The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education and the Council for Exceptional
Children. ERIC EC, Digest #E560. [on-line document] Available at: http://www.cec.sped.org/digests/e560.htm. Internet.
NCES. 1997. Snyder, Thomas D., with production manager, Charlene M. Hoffman. Program Analyst,
Claire M. Geddes. Digest of Education Statistics 1997, NCES 98-015. U.S. Department of Education. National Center for
Education Statistics. Washington, DC. [on-line document] Available
Sharma, Mahesh 1989. How Children Learn Mathematics: Professor Mahesh Sharma, in
interview with Bill Domoney. London, England: Oxford Polytechnic, School of Education. 90 min. Educational Methods Unit.
Sharma, Mahesh. 1990. Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Some Remedial Perspectives for
Mathematics Learning Problems. Math Notebook: From Theory into Practice. no. 7, 8, 9 & 10.
(September, October, November, & December).
Strang, Ruth. 1960. Helping Your Gifted Child. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company