The question of current vs recent disability documentation is a common and sometimes confusing one for many parents and students as they explore post-secondary education opportunities. School districts may indicate an updated evaluation is not necessary for the student with a stable disability and many years of special education support. An updated assessment may be necessary to identify significant academic barriers and effective accommodations. Students can ask the school about updating their documentation if they have:

  • A relatively new disability diagnosis;
  • Frequent changes in the educational impact of their disability; or
  • Older evaluations (5+ years) that don’t reflect current functioning

Determining what documentation is needed should be an individualized process for each student based on the policies specific to the college(s) that the student is considering. College documentation requirements vary widely which can make this process challenging for families. It is important to ask questions in advance, so that families have adequate time and resources to explore additional evaluation options if needed. Below are some sample questions to ask college disability personnel:

What are the college’s documentation requirements to determine appropriate accommodations and services on campus?
Should the documentation be ‘current or relevant or recent’ and how does that apply to different types of disabilities?
Is it beneficial to request or seek out an updated evaluation before the student leaves high school?

LDA is one of many great organizations dedicated to providing quality education and clear information for parents and students with disabilities. The Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) is another excellent resource. This organization focuses on the post-secondary setting, and their website is full of great information. Below are some AHEAD website excerpts from written to disability office personnel regarding documentation. It is helpful to see what campuses are looking for when reviewing documentation to determine accommodations and/or services needed for students with disabilities:

What guidance do you have for updating documentation periodically for an active student, aside from documentation that is needed to understand changes in a student’s disability?
There is no need to “update” documentation for the sake of updating documentation. If changing circumstances no longer warrant accommodations – for example, a student’s temporary disability has completely resolved – plan to meet with the student within a reasonable period of time to explore the changed situation.

Is there a minimum set of documentation to be obtained for verification?
No, the process is, and always should have been, individualized…request the information needed to understand the connection between the barrier described, the student’s disability and the requested accommodations. When there is not adequate information to make a decision, additional documentation that is specifically tailored to providing what is missing for that particular student in that particular situation should be requested.

In one additional excerpt, AHEAD provides an excellent explanation about current and relevant 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 internal documentation.

The key is to explore the policies of each college disability office carefully, asking questions related to specific disability requirements and issues such as documentation currency, relevancy and recency. Finding the right educational fit with accommodations and services specific to the student’s disability is one of the keys to a successful transition to the post-secondary setting.

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