It’s one of the wonders of nature that every child is unique, with individual talents, strengths, and challenges. One student may sail through math class but struggle in reading, while another may be able to recite the American Presidents in chronological order but forget his backpack every morning. Yet through our academic system, all these children’s academic abilities are measured by the same tests.
Fortunately, educational systems have allowed academic accommodations for children with a variety of disabilities. These accommodations create an even playing field for all students.
Types Of Accommodations
Testing accommodations for students fall into four general categories:
• How the test is presented
• How the student answers the questions
• How the testing environment is modified
• How much time the child is allowed, including scheduling and breaks
For example, children who are visually impaired may require that the test be presented in large print. Students who struggle with writing may be allowed to give oral answers to questions. Children easily distracted by ambient noise may be allowed to take the test in a special room, or wear noise-cancelling headphones. Children whose disabilities hinder their on-the-spot math or reading processing may be allowed more time, including multiple breaks or even multiple days.
Although many teachers may allow for modifications in the classroom specific to the learning challenges of your child, in order to receive accommodations on most standardized tests, the child’s specific disability must be documented. A complete psychoeducational evaluation is recommended as the first step. This evaluation will pinpoint the disability, discuss the degree to which the child’s learning abilities are affected, as well as recommended what accommodations are most appropriate. Note that these accommodations are often available not only on standardized testing, but also in the classroom.
Note that many testing agencies require considerable lead time in order to process documents and to ensure accommodations are available at the test site. Even children with an Individual Education Plan or 504 Plan don’t automatically receive accommodations, so make sure to contact educational testing services early to ensure that your child gets a fair chance to shine.