Documenting a Disability Guidelines

Role of the Academic Support Center

The Academic Advising Center is responsible for encouraging success in the classroom for all students at Gustavus.  Under that responsibility fall support services for students with disabilities.  The Advising Center will provide consultations, referrals, and direct assistance to students with disabilities in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of Students.

General Guidelines for Documentation

It is the policy of Gustavus Adolphus College to provide appropriate accommodations for enrolled students who have disabilities.

The student is the best source of information about the effects of disability and efficacy of accommodations, auxiliary aids and modifications to address the need. The Disability Services Staff are experienced professionals who will conduct a structured interview with each student to assess the impact of disability and past accommodations. Documentation that is relevant to the current functioning of the individual will often assist the student and staff in this process.

Documentation may come in many forms, and for an individual with an apparent disability, may not be necessary. AHEAD, Association on Higher Education and Disability, has stated: “Documentation from external sources may include educational or medical records, reports, assessments, and evaluations created by health care providers, school psychologists, teachers, or the educational system. This information is inclusive of documents that reflect education and accommodation history, such as Individual Education Program (IEP), Summary Of Performance (SOP), and teacher observations.”

If a student anticipates a need for accommodation at Gustavus, she/he is encouraged to schedule a meeting with Disability Services Staff for a comprehensive interview. Supporting documentation that will assist in describing the impact of the disability or defining accommodations may be provided for review in advance, or brought to a meeting.

Contact the Disability Services Office:

507-933-7027 Voice
507-933-6207 Fax
Laurie L. Bickett, Coordinator of Disability Services
Kelly Hanson, Disability Specialist
Gustavus Adolphus College
800 West College Avenue
St. Peter, MN 56082

Documenting a Disability at Gustavus

Physical Disabilities

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Educational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 an individual with a disability is defined as one who has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life functions."  Therefore, documentation of a physical disability should include (1) a statement of the impairment and (2) how it limits a major life activity, including but not limited to walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, performing manual tasks, care for one's self, learning, and working. A doctor's statement of the impairment or condition is not sufficient, without the documentation of how that impairment or condition substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the student.  In addition to the doctor's statement, a copy of the most recent Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan, if the student was educated in the public schools, will help Gustavus to determine appropriate accommodations.

Documentation should state the student's current level of functioning.  For disabilities that fluctuate throughout an individual's life, documentation that is less than three years old is requested.  Gustavus requires documented evidence that the requested service or accommodation is appropriate to the needs of the student.  Therefore recommendations for appropriate accommodations are also requested.

Mental Disabilities

Students who have a mental impairment that limits their abilities to function in the classroom may qualify for accommodations.  Appropriate documentation of a mental impairment should include a statement of the impairment from a licensed mental health practitioner and, if relevant, a statement of current medication from the prescribing psychiatrist.  The report should include summaries of the following: diagnostic interviews, assessment of the student’s mental status (including testing) and DSM IV diagnosis.  A doctor’s statement of the impairment or condition is not sufficient, without the documentation of how that impairment or condition substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the student.   If the student has received accommodations in the public schools, a copy of the most recent IEP or 504 plan outlining accommodations, is also requested.  

Learning Disability

Students applying for services and accommodations on the basis of a learning disability must submit a current, comprehensive report of a psychoeducational assessment performed by a person who has received formal training in assessment techniques necessary to diagnose learning disabilities and has professional experience in that field.  The student's most recent IEP and psychoeducational assessment summary should fulfill these requirements.

The report should include summaries of the following: diagnostic interview, assessment of the student's aptitudes, academic achievement and information processing, and a clear statement of the diagnosis of the specific learning disability.  Language indicating a "learning difficulty," or "learning deficit" will not be considered appropriate documentation.


Diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD) will only be accepted when made by an individual who holds a current license in an appropriate field (medicine or psychology) and has formal training and experience in assessment of these conditions.

Documentation should include (1) a clear statement of ADD or ADHD with the DSM-IV diagnosis and a description of supporting past and present symptoms, (2) a summary of the assessment procedures and instruments used, (3) a narrative summary that includes scores and supports diagnosis, (4) a statement of the student's medical needs, including the impact of medication on the student's ability to meet the demands of an academic environment.