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My daughter has been in Special Education since elementary school but her high school would not agree to update her testing before graduation. Should her documentation be recent to get disability accommodations or services in college?

You ask an excellent question about the need for ‘recent’ disability documentation. Each college or university develops their own policy for reviewing student documentation, determining barriers to education, and providing needed accommodations. When looking at schools for your daughter, read through the documentation policy for each disability office. Ask questions about what type of evaluation material is needed and how current it must be to access accommodations at their institution. Schools can vary greatly in what they require to determine accommodations for students with disabilities. The Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is another excellent resource for information about disability services in the post-secondary setting. AHEAD provides the following explanation on their website about current, relevant and recent documentation:


“Disability documentation should be current and relevant but not necessarily “recent”. Disabilities are typically stable lifelong conditions. Therefore, historic information, supplemented by interview of self-report, is often sufficient to describe how the condition impacts the student at the current time and in the current circumstances. Institutions should not establish blanket statements that limit the age of acceptable external documentation”. (

Can I receive accommodations through the Division of Motor Vehicle to take a drivers license test? If so, what types of accommodations are offered?

Unfortunately, every state seems to handle disability accommodations differently. Some have policies mandating accommodations; others do not. The only thing you can do is contact your DMV (or whoever does the testing in your state) and ask them what accommodations you would be eligible for based on your disability diagnosis and documentation. Typical testing accommodations for paper-based or computer-based tests include:

  • Access to auditory format, either text-to- speech software or a reader;
  • Extra time to complete the test;
  • Private, distraction-free room for testing;
  • A scribe (someone to write or keyboard for you);
  • Calculator for math problems; and
  • Breaks, if needed.

You may also request other accommodations if needed and if your disability documentation supports the need.

What is the difference between auditory processing disorder and ADHD?

An auditory processing disorder is a condition that adversely affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed and interpreted by the brain. For more information, see learning-disabilities/auditory- processing-disorder/

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder that is influenced by environmental factors. Typically, people with AD/HD have developmentally inappropriate behavior, including poor attention skills, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. For diagnosis, the behaviors must be out of the normal range for the person’s age and development. According to the DSM-5, characteristics include:

  • Starts in early childhood, usually before age 12.
  • Behaviors are chronic.
  • Behaviors last at least 6 months.

For more information about AD/HD, go to learning-disabilities/adhd/.

How can I improve my short-term memory?

The most important component of short-term memory is attention. You must choose to give something your undivided attention and focus if you want to remember it.

There are many strategies and assistive technology tools for helping you remember things. Here are some ideas for strategies you can:

  • Know your learning style(s), and use your area(s) of strength when you need to remember something. For example, visual learners may want to draw pictures, maps, or charts; or write the information down. Auditory learners may need to repeat the information out loud, or use a recording device to hear the information later.
  • Repetition. Once you’ve identified your preferred learning style(s), the more you repeat the information, the more you’ll remember it.
  • Mnemonic devices. For example, to remember the great lakes, many people think of “HOMES,” to remind them of the beginning letters of each lake (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
  • Chunking, or breaking the information into smaller parts to remember the parts instead of the whole. Put the parts together later to make the whole.
  • Rhyming/music/rhythm. Try remembering something by putting it in a familiar song, like the tune of the ABC song. Sounds silly, but it works for lots of people. Actually, the crazier it is, the better it works.
  • Association. Associating words or numbers with pictures can be helpful. There’s an interesting article about remembering people’s names by the association method here.
  • Write it down. Don’t lose the paper.
  • Pick one location to keep important items.
  • Make duplicates of really important items.

Click here for assistive technology and app ideas to help with short-term memory.

Are there common learning disabilities among adult GED® students?

Many students working towards a high school equivalency diploma, including students in GED® adult education programs, may have learning disabilities, although many of those students have never been diagnosed. According to The Neurobiology of Reading and Dyslexia, by Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., and Bennet A. Shaywitz, M.D., approximately 85% of people with learning disabilities have some type of reading disability. That percentage applies to all people with learning disabilities, whether or not they are enrolled in a GED®, HiSET®, or TASC™ adult education program.

So while students with learning disabilities include students with various types of learning disabilities, the most common learning disability is a reading disability.

I am confused about the difference between a learning disability and a language disorder?

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects information processing. For more information, go to

A language disorder is a type of auditory processing disorder that affects how language is processed. It can affect both what you say and/or how you understand what other people say. For more information, go to learning-disabilities/language-processing-disorder/.

I am a poor speller and have been all my life. Is this a learning disability?

Difficulty with spelling is one of many characteristics of learning disabilities; however, poor spelling alone does not identify the presence of a learning disability. If you are interested in determining whether or not you have a learning disability, read about the evaluation process at

Why do we still use the term learning disability?

The term “learning disability” was first used by Dr. Sam Kirk in a paper he submitted to a conference in 1963. That term was widely accepted and used in civil rights legislation and the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) until 2013, when the DSM-5 replaced the term “learning disability” with “learning disorder.” However, most people still use the term “learning disability,” primarily because civil rights legislation that protects people with disabilities uses the term “learning disability.”