Psychological Disorders

Psychiatric disabilities comprise a range of conditions characterized by emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral dysfunction.  Students requesting academic adjustments on the basis of this disability must provide documentation from an evaluator who has undergone comprehensive training.  The terms psychological disabilities and psychiatric disabilities are used interchangeably in this guideline.  The evaluator must also have relevant expertise in differential diagnosis and the full range of psychiatric disorders (e.g., licensed clinical psychologists, neurologists, marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and other relevantly trained medical doctors). 

A psychological/psychiatric diagnosis in and of itself does not automatically warrant approval of requested accommodations.  Documentation for eligibility must reflect the current impact the disability has on the student’s academic functioning (the age of acceptable documentation is dependent upon the disabling condition, the current status of the student and the student’s request for accommodations).  Information and documentation to validate and verify accommodation eligibility must be comprehensive in order to avoid unnecessary delays in decision making.

Documentation should include:

  • An interview which includes a description of the current problem(s) as well as any significant developmental, medical, psychosocial and employment; and family history.
  • A specific current psychiatric diagnosis as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association (1994), which indicates the nature, frequency and severity of the symptoms upon which the diagnosis was predicated.  A diagnosis without an explicit listing of current symptoms is not sufficient.  Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) is NOT an acceptable diagnosis at the post-secondary level.
  • A description of the current functional limitations in the academic environment as well as across other settings.
  • Medical information relating to the student’s needs, including the impact of medication in the student’s ability to meet the demands at the university, especially information that might influence the types of accommodations.
  • An indication of whether or not the student was evaluated while on medication, and whether or not the prescribed treatment produced a positive response.
  • When requesting a specific accommodation a link must be established between the requested accommodations and the functional limitations of the student in the academic environment.

The summary should:

  • Indicate the substantial limitations to major life activities posed by the psychiatric disability,
  • Describe the degree of impact the diagnosed psychiatric disorder on a specific major life activity, as well as the degree of impact on the individual.  A link must be established between the requested accommodations and the functional limitations of the individual that are pertinent to the learning environment,
  • Suggest how the specific effects of the psychiatric disability may be accommodated, and provide clear and convincing rationale for the necessity of the accommodation,
  • State how the effects of the psychiatric disability are mediated by the recommended accommodation.

The name, title, and credentials of the qualified professional writing the report should be included.  Information about license or certification, as well as the area of specialization, employment, and state of province, in which the individual practices, should also be clearly stated in the documentation.  All reports should be typed on professional letterhead, dated and signed.