Testing Accommodations for Children with Disabilities
Children with disabilities related to reading, writing, or math may need testing accommodations for their disabilities. Even if a child has a disability that is not technically classified as a learning disability, they may be entitled to a testing accommodation for the disability if it affects their ability to learn. These conditions may undermine a child’s ability to focus, process information, interact in a school environment, or handle certain types of tasks. Federal education laws cover children in these situations as well.
The three federal laws that protect the rights of children with disabilities are the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). IDEIA provides a right to Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for eligible children, while Section 504 applies to a broader range of children who have disabilities and are attending schools that receive federal funding. The ADA applies to schools that do not receive federal funding, excluding only certain church-operated schools. It confers mostly similar protections to Section 504.
Arranging a Testing Accommodation
A testing accommodation is meant to allow a child with a disability to demonstrate their actual knowledge of the material taught in school. In other words, it compensates for the effect of any disability on test results. An accommodation should not go so far that it provides an advantage to a child with a disability or lowers the standards for their learning. To be eligible, a child must be formally found to have a disability that affects their learning. The school will provide a plan specific to each child’s needs, which will include their testing accommodations. If they qualify under IDEIA, testing accommodations will be included in their IEP. If they qualify under Section 504, testing accommodations will be included in their Section 504 plan.
Testing accommodations can take various forms, including the place where the child takes the test, any time limits for taking the test, and ways in which the questions or answers can be provided. Sometimes a child may need breaks during a test to accommodate a disability, for example, or they may need to take the test separately from other students in a quieter environment. If their disability prevents them from writing their answers, a school staff member may need to write answers dictated by the child or provide a recorder for the child to say their answers. In other situations, a child who cannot write in a traditional way may need to be able to take the test on a computer. If you are a parent of a child who qualifies under IDEIA, you will have the opportunity to discuss specific testing accommodations for your child at the annual IEP meeting.
Testing Accommodations in Private Schools
Private schools do not always offer the same scope of testing accommodations under IDEIA as public schools. If the child was enrolled in a private school by their parents, they may need to choose from a narrow range of options. However, if the public school district placed the child in a private school, they may have more rights under IDEIA. The scope of their options also may depend on whether the child was found to be eligible under IDEIA before or after they were placed in a private school.