Accommodations for students with LD and ADHD have been referred to as “leveling the playing field” or giving each student a fair shot. These are normally requested after a long battery of tests that show the students needs, strengths and weaknesses in his academic profile and what will be needed for the student to succeed.

According to the University of Washington’s brochure of academic accommodations which can be downloaded at:

“The number of students diagnosed with disabilities who are attending postsecondary institutions has increased dramatically. Members of the largest group of students with disabilities have learning disabilities. In most situations, a learning disability is not readily observable. Because there are no outward signs of a disability such as a white cane or wheelchair, students with learning disabilities are often overlooked or misunderstood. Some instructors and administrators suspect that students who claim to have learning disabilities are faking it, are playing the system, or lack the intelligence needed to succeed in college. Understanding the implications of learning disabilities, preparing to teach students with diverse characteristics, and learning to accommodate students with learning disabilities are essential for faculty and staff to provide academic and career opportunities for these students that are equivalent to those provided to their nondisabled peers.

Learning Disabilities and Functional Limitations 

Generally speaking, students may be diagnosed with learning disabilities if they are of average or above-average intelligence and there is a significant discrepancy between their academic achievement and their intellectual ability. The diagnosis of a learning disability is often made by a psychologist trained in administering and interpreting psycho-educational assessments. Psychologists use the results of their assessments to understand how individuals receive, process, integrate, retain, and communicate information. Since these functions cannot always be directly observed, it is often difficult to diagnose specific learning disabilities, determine their impact, and recommend appropriate accommodations.

There are many types of learning disabilities; they often impact student abilities in one or more of the following categories:

Spoken language—listening and speaking.

Written language—reading, writing, and spelling.

Arithmetic—calculation and mathematical concepts.

Reasoning—organization and integration of ideas and thoughts.

Learning disabilities may also be present along with other disabilities such as mobility and sensory impairments, brain injuries, Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), and psychiatric disabilities.

Auditory perception and processing—the student may have difficulty processing information communicated through lectures or class discussions. He or she may have difficulty distinguishing subtle differences in sound or knowing which sounds to attend to.

Visual perception and processing—the student may have difficulty distinguishing subtle differences in shape (e.g., the letters b and d), deciding what images to focus on when multiple images are present, skip words or repeat sections when reading, or misjudge depth or distance. He or she may have difficulty processing information communicated via overhead projection, through video, in graphs and charts, by email, or within web-based distance learning courses.

Information processing speed—the student may process auditory and visual information more slowly than the average person. He or she may be a slow reader because of the need for additional time to decode and comprehend written material.

Abstract reasoning—the student may have difficulty understanding the context of subjects such as philosophy and logic, which require high level reasoning skills.

Memory (long—term, short-term)-the student may have difficulty with the storing or recalling of information during short or long time periods.

Spoken and written language—the student may have difficulty with spelling (e.g., mixing up letters) or with speaking (e.g., reversing words or phrases).

Mathematical calculation—the student may have difficulty manipulating numbers, may sometimes invert numbers, and may have difficulty converting problems described in words to mathematical expressions.

Executive functioning (planning and time management)—the student may have difficulty breaking larger projects into smaller sub-projects, creating and following a timeline, and meeting deadlines.”

We at RiSE, have listed some examples of accommodations below that are frequently used in middle and high schools, as well as requested in college.  These are usually recommended from a complete psychological evaluation that is performed by evaluating a student with a specific learning disability.  Of course the recommendation is case by case and not a one size fits all! 

Additionally these are requested at the meeting of implementing an IEP or an individualized educational plan while still in middle or high school.


  • Use of a word processor instead of written work.
  • Note taking support if a student has attention and motor skills difficulty
  • For students who have difficulty reading cursive, small or crowded print, typed handouts, large print, or double spaced materials need to be provided.
  • Fewer test questions on math and science quizzes and tests that involve calculation, a use of a calculator, or a table with the facts that are pertinent are provided.
  • Detailed study guides
  • Organizational support
  • Tests taken in secluded quiet space
  • Extended time for state and nationally normed tests- typically time and a half or double the standard time. Also extended time for College entrance tests, such as ACT or SAT.
  • Test formats that support a learning disability associated with recall:
  • Word banks on tests due to short term memory needs such as fill in blank tests
  • Recognition tests rather than recall e.g. multiple choice versus fill in the blank
  • Allowance to have chance to dictate answers to essay and other tests involving written expression
  • Provided test breaks that are given during extended time administration.
  • Extended time for written expressive assessments/assignments.
  • Detailed study guides to externalize information, supporting short term memory.
  • Recorded text books and course material (The Kurzwell and Daisy System are widely used for text to spoken form.
  • Use of text to type assistive technology, or if either physical limitation or poor motor skills ability to dictate the course work and have a typist scribe it, or type into the computer for the student.
  • Priority registration for scheduling classes.
  • Preferential seating in classroom.

In College :

  • Priority opportunity for a private room on campus due to the fact the student needs extended time for studying and is highly distractible and vulnerable to environmental distractions.
  • Course substitution or waiver for foreign language requirements, although some have found sign language and Chinese to be a great choice for that requirement due to the visual and tactile skills involved.
  • A peer counselor is often available weekly.
  • Extra time ( time and a half) on testing.
  • Early registration for classes.


If these are going to requested at college, you will need to be able to provide these to the disability office and have documentation of the recommendation and diagnosis.  At college this will be your time to self advocate for what will make you a success!

This article is for general interest and help for students with LD, please see your high school counselor, physician, or educational consultant for testing if you would like specific information on your LD.