Disabilities are Considered a Diversity
When students graduate from high school or reach age 21, their rights under the IDEA come to an end. So what does this mean for students who plan on attending college and must take either the ACT or SAT?
According to David Montesano, admission strategist in Bellevue, WA (College Match Educational Consultants), colleges are looking for diversity. LD and ADHD disabilities are a form of diversity. Mr. Montesano says colleges will often look at an applicant’s grades and test scores such as ACT or SAT differently if they are presented with proper evidence of a learning disability. The learning disability may help put lower grades and class rankings or test scores like the SAT or ACT in a learning disability context.
ACT & SAT Test Accommodations: The Proof is in the Documentation
If your child has a disability, they may qualify to take the ACT or SAT test with accommodations. You will have to apply in advance of the testing date. This needs to be quite a bit in advance because you might be asked for additional information or documentation, and it simply takes time because so many requests for accommodations are filed each year.
If your child was afforded special accommodations in high school, you should ask for the same accommodations during the test. Your school will have the appropriate documentation you need. If you are a homeschooler with a disability, you will need to provide documentation from doctors and those who tested you. If you attended private school and were afforded informal accommodations, you will need to have specific details (from the teachers/principal/counselors) of those accommodations, even it was simply extra time at lunch to finish a test as well as any testing documentation.
The testing organization (ACT or SAT) will require information indicating what accommodation is requested, substantiating the need for the accommodation on standardized tests, and your child’s history with that accommodation. You might be asked to state their specific disability. This diagnosis should be made by a professional with the appropriate credentials, certifications, and degrees. Make sure the evaluation and diagnostic testing is current–within three to five years of your request. For the ACT, the disability must have been diagnosed or re-confirmed by a qualified professional within the 3 academic years prior to the date of the request. You will also want to provide relevant educational, developmental, and medical history making sure to describe the comprehensive testing and techniques used in arriving at your child’s diagnosis (including results with subtest scores [standard or scaled scores] for all tests). If your child’s disability causes learning limitations, describe the functional limitations that result from the diagnosed disability. It is very important to describe the specific accommodations being requested on either the ACT or SAT test.
The four major categories of testing accommodations are:
According to Anne B. Carlson, guidance department chairwoman at Walton High School in Marietta, GA, the ACT is considered the tougher of the two when requesting accommodations. She says, “I will do the same documentation for Jane Doe for the SAT and ACT. The SAT will come back approved, and the ACT will come back not approved.”
Many students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and psychiatric impairments such as anxiety or depression, might feel more comfortable with the ACT test because the format is more familiar looking to them. They use curriculum-based topics, and they do not penalize for wrong answers. However, each person is unique and each must make their own decision.
Whichever test your child chooses, you will need to demonstrate that their specific disability will substantially limit their daily functioning and their ability to take the test. You must show that the requested accommodation fits your child’s specific disability — extra time (typically 100 to 125 more minutes) for a student with a reading disability, or breaks between tests for a student with poor attention. Extended time is the most requested accommodation.
Students also must prove they have used similar accommodations in their school, even if informally. “The presumption is that if you’re not using it, you don’t need it,” says Nora Belanger, a disability rights and special-education lawyer in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Legal experts say if you find that the schools will not, or are unable to test your child or update your child’s testing, it is best to make the investment in a comprehensive private evaluation. Micki Moran, a Chicago lawyer with expertise in special-education issues, says, “If you have to choose between a lawyer and someone who can tell what’s wrong with your kid, choose the evaluator,”