Learning Disorders

Disability-specific criteria for documenting the functional impact of learning disorders on the student

Qualified professional

Professionals conducting the assessment, rendering a diagnosis, and providing recommendations for reasonable accommodations must be qualified to do so (e.g., psychologist, neuropsychologist).

Note: that a comprehensive neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation should be submitted for learning disorders to Student Disability Resources. 


Penn State has adopted guidelines for documenting learning disorders from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  Individuals with learning disorders have persistent difficulty learning or performing academic skills at a level commensurate with their intelligence and age, and this should be reflected in the documentation submitted to SDR by addressing all of the following:

  • Evidence of persistent learning difficulties causing academic performance below expectations despite targeted intervention
  • Diagnosis of learning disorder occurring after onset of school years even if learning difficulties were apparent prior to school-age
  • Documented areas of academic skills difficulties as measured by objective and statistically sound aptitude and achievement assessments that are reported in terms of specific subtests and standard scores (a full neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation should include this information)
  • Learning difficulties must interfere with or reduce the quality of functioning, whether academically, socially, occupationally, or other area of functional impairment
  • Learning difficulties cannot be attributed to or better explained by another diagnosis or environmental factor, including but not limited to intellectual disability, mental disorder, sensory impairment, neurological disorder, psycho-social difficulty, language difference, or lack of access to adequate instruction
  • Learning difficulties and associated functional limitations in the academic environment and possibly other settings should warrant reasonable accommodations, which are presented in terms of a summary and recommendations (i.e., learning difficulty and suggested reasonable accommodation to mitigate learning difficulty)
Related content