In this four-part guest series, Dr. Martin Friedmutter explains how test accommodations can help your student optimize his or her performance for standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, GRE, and LSAT. Throughout this series, it is important to remember that test accommodations are not a substitute for individual test prep and are not necessary or appropriate for every student.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with a learning disability, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a physical disability, or psychiatric disability are entitled to test accommodations on any classroom or standardized test.
What is an accommodation?
Technically, an accommodation is any modification from standard test conditions. According to the ADA, test accommodations are meant to alleviate the impact of an individual’s disability on the examination process. The most common test accommodations are extended time, flexible scheduling, separate test administrations, and the use of a computer for written responses.
How does one apply for testing accommodations?
In order to apply for testing accommodations, individuals must submit a formal diagnosis of a qualifying disability, substantiated through aptitude and achievement testing, academic history, and clinical interviews, as well as a diagnostic interpretation and summary by an appropriate professional. The documentation must also include information on how the disability impacts the student across several life settings, including home, school, and social situations.
What happens in the clinical interview?
The clinical interview takes a detailed history of the disability, including the current symptoms and problems reported by the individual as well as relevant family history of a learning disability or ADHD. The symptoms that are significant to a formal diagnosis are reported in detail. The clinical interview must be comprehensive and support the diagnosis of a learning disability, ADHD, or a psychiatric disorder.
The clinical interview also looks for evidence that the disability existed in childhood. Learning disabilities, although not always formally diagnosed in childhood, commonly impact an individual’s academic or behavioral functioning. ADHD, by definition, is a disorder with a childhood onset. Thus, the interview process will gather historical information to support a diagnosis and its impact on learning. Evidence of childhood disability can include a formal diagnosis in elementary, middle, or high school, or test accommodations from a 504 plan. When an individual does not have either of these, the documentation must include evidence like report cards, progress reports from teachers, results from standardized tests, or reports of classroom behavior and performance. Reports from teachers and tutors regarding study habits and attitudes toward school are also important. When an individual cannot provide documentation of a disability prior to applying for test accommodations, the diagnostic interview is as—if not more important—than the standardized testing that is part of this process.
In part two of this four-part series, Dr. Friedmutter will discuss the importance of an aptitude test and how it can help in obtaining test accommodations.
Dr. Friedmutter is the Director of the Westchester Career & Learning Center and is a licensed psychologist with over twenty years of experience. One of his areas of specialization is the treatment and diagnosis of children, adolescents, and adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Learning Disabilities (LD). He has extensive experience with the evaluation and treatment with children and adults who have ADHD and/or LD. He also specializes in evaluations for test accommodations.