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Frequently Asked Questions Assessment Policy

How are assessment accommodation requests involving learning disorders processed?

In short, OPM does not offer specific guidance to agencies on how accommodation requests are processed.  Please check your agency's policies on processing accommodation requests because policies may vary by agency.

 

For some general information in regards to processing accommodation requests, you may want to consult the Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD) "Guidelines for Documentation of a Learning Disability in Adolescents and Adults" (available on several websites, for example: http://www.ldonline.org/article/6127/). 

 

The guidelines are used by numerous educational institutions, testing organizations, and employers to evaluate the adequacy of documentation used to support the existence of learning disabilities.  Documentation of a "specific learning disability" (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) term) often requires gathering information from aptitude (intelligence quotient, or IQ), achievement, and information processing tests.  The results should be summarized in a report by a qualified evaluator (e.g., a mental health professional with experience and training in the assessment of learning problems).

 

If the applicant does indeed have a specific learning impairment, the battery of test results should show average to above-average mental ability (IQ of 100 or higher) in combination with pronounced difficulties in one or more specific areas of achievement.  IQ/achievement score differences that reach statistical significance are used to support a clinical diagnosis of a learning disorder.  However, a clinical diagnosis only rises to the level of a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the individual is unable to perform, or is substantially limited in the ability to perform, an activity "compared to an average person in the general population" (see EEOC's "Technical Assistance Manual: Title I of the ADA, Section II," http://askjan.org/links/ADAtam1.html). 

 

In terms of achievement scores, the average adult is assumed to function at the high school level.  For instance, an applicant whose intellectual functioning is at the college level but only achieves at the high school level (because of a learning impairment) would normally not meet the ADA legal criteria of having a disability.  Not all clinically diagnosed impairments meet the "substantially limited" criteria under the ADA.

 

For more information regarding assessment accommodations, please contact Assessment_Information@opm.gov.

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