Items to Read for Carefully in Testing Agency or College Documentation Requirements
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When students want to apply for accommodations on college admissions exams or at the college they will attend, they have to submit proof of their disability (called “documentation”). Students and their parents should check these requirements before students submit their application so that they can be sure that their documentation contains what is needed. To learn how to find these requirements, see Elizabeth’s instructions.
Once you and your student have located the documentation requirements for your student’s testing agency or college, you may see that these contain elements that you have never heard of or considered. Here are some things you may notice that you may not have realized agencies or school consider important:
- Qualifications of evaluator – Some colleges and testing boards will not accept cognitive testing (i.e. the Wechsler Intelligence Scales or the Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Battery) performed by someone with a Master’s degree, even if that person is a state-licensed school psychologist. Many will accept testing from such a professional, so if you have questions about this, call the testing board or college disability service office. [Again, see Elizabeth’s instructions for information about how to find these phone numbers.If you have decided to pay for private testing, check to see what the testing agency’s or college’s guidelines say before you choose a diagnostician. Also check Elizabeth’s advice on how to make sure you choose qualified evaluator to do the testing, and what you should expect to see in a good report.
- Specifications about use of adult scales – Some testing agencies and colleges require that students be tested with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) rather than the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV). (The Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Testing battery does not have separate versions for children and adults.) Again, there may be some flexibility on this, so students who have been tested with the children’s scale may not need new testing. Before you do anything, call the college or testing agency to ask whether the testing your student has will be accepted. Do not get new testing until you are absolutely sure that you have to do so.
- Specifications about brand-name testing – Will they accept a Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Battery (WJ-III) for testing of cognitive ability, or do they require one of the Wechsler batteries (WAIS-IV or WISC-IV) for assessment of students’ cognitive abilities? A few schools may be very specific about this; many will not care. Be sure to check the testing agency’s or college’s guidelines carefully for this information. If they say it must be one of these tests, and your student was tested with the other one, call to ask whether the college will show some flexibility on this point. Students should note that most schools will not accept abbreviated tests, such as the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT) or the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI).
- Specifications about age of reports – Even if your student’s testing and report are older than the guidelines say they can be, your student should call the office and make sure that his/her report will not be accepted before you set up new testing. Some colleges will be flexible, and your student may not need to get new testing. The Association on Higher Education and Disability – a professional organization that provides guidance but does not make laws – encourages colleges to show flexibility on this point.
- ADHD requirements (if applicable) – Over the past several years, some testing bodies and colleges have increased their demands for ADHD documentation, and they now require full psycho-educational testing along with objective measures of attention and additional testing (the entire evaluation is called a “neuropsychological evaluation”). For an example of such guidelines, students see University of Tennessee’s (Knoxville) ADHD requirements. Do not pursue this testing unless your student has been accepted to and decides to attend a school with such requirements, as this will be an unnecessary use of time and money if your student attends a college that does not have such requirements. If your student does need additional testing, see Elizabeth’s advice on how to examine documentation requirements for your student’s testing agency or college to make sure that the report you get has all of the necessary elements, how to find a good qualified evaluator, and what you should expect to see in a good report.
- Medication specifications – Students who take medications that can affect their academic performance (positvely or negatively) may find that the documentation guidelines require them to be tested on or off the medication. If you don’t see this information in the guidelines and plan to get your student tested before s/he applies for accommodations, call the testing agency or college to ask whether this issue is important. It is likely that it is not, but it is worth checking. Even if the agency or college says students should be on the medication at the time of testing, students who were not on it when they were tested should apply for accommodations anyway, as their documentation may be accepted.
- DSM-IV diagnosis code – This is a code from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – IV, which some colleges require be included in a report. Students whose documentation does not include it should apply for accommodations anyway, as testing agencies and colleges may show some flexibility. If your student asks for accommodations and is turned down based on the absence of this code, ask the person who wrote the testing report to either revise it to include the appropriate code, or write an addendum to the report to supply the code.
Sometimes the requirements may state that the documentation has to contain some other element that students’ testing report does not (this mostly applies to learning disability or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder documentation). Before you do anything, call and ask some questions. You may find that the testing agency or college will actually show more flexibility on these points than you may anticipate.
If you have any questions about what is contained in an agency’s or college’s requirements, call to ask questions before your student applies for accomodations. For more about applying for accommodations, see Elizabeth’s book.