THE ACCOMMODATION NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT
Accommodations, such as extended time, extra breaks, and read-alouds serve to “level the playing field” and offer equal opportunity for the student to show what they have learned. Accommodations are not modifications. (Modifications reflect changes to instruction and testing. These changes alter the expectations or standards in learning the materials and content.) Legally, accommodations are not designed to bring out the optimum in a student, but rather to stop failure.
Neuropsychological assessment is frequently requested to ascertain specific accommodations that the student is entitled to in school and testing settings. Specifically, this assessment may be needed for the student with a learning disability within the test taking situation or for the student when taking the ACT/SAT examinations. This assessment may also be required for the older student who needs accommodations in college or to take the LSAT/MCAT examinations.
- Accommodations for the school environment
Neuropsychological assessment identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the “whole” student using an array of systematic standardized measures. These measures will assess a student's intellectual, cognitive, achievement, social-emotional, behavioral, regulatory, and adaptive functioning levels for baseline purposes and to identify appropriate and reasonable interventions and evidence-based accommodations for any identified cognitive, social-emotional, and regulatory compromises. It is the comprehensiveness of a neuropsychological assessment that is crucial in detecting the “nuts and bolts” of the student's challenges. The neuropsychologist will assess the child and integrate the findings with those of the parental interview, parent and teacher questionnaires and rating scales, and other relevant educational or medical background information. It is the integration of all information that allows for accurate identification of the student's needs.
Assessment for College Board accommodations
The student must prove the existence of a disorder(s) as well as a disability when applying for accommodations for the high-stakes examinations such as the SAT/ACT. Accommodations “level the playing field” so that students with disabilities have the same opportunities as non-disabled students to demonstrate on tests what they have learned and how they can use what they have learned. Accommodations are task-specific in that they are designed to reduce or eliminate the impact of the impairment on an activity. Disabilities that are typically presented in this practice are learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, selective medical conditions, physical disabilities, and psychiatric conditions. Because of the stringent legal documentation requirements, the assessment will usually involve more testing than would be done for a purely clinical evaluation. The reason for this is that many extra tests are required by the College Board in order to substantiate a disorder along with extra record review in order to document the disability and the student's struggles throughout school. The neuropsychologist must also rule out other causes for the student's problems. There must be evidence to provide a rationale to support the need for the accommodation(s). The assessment must address current functioning in terms of functional limitations. Thus, evidence for substantial limitation(s) to learning caused by the disorder and the degree to which it affects the student in the testing context for which accommodation(s) are being requested is critical. A diagnosis alone does not qualify a student for accommodations. The reader is referred to the College Board website for further details of their documentation requirements.
Other “high-stakes” examinations such as the LSAT/MCAT/GMAT ?
As a student taking the aforementioned tests, one must document the existence of an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, the current impact of the impairment, and how it limits one's ability to take the examination. A rationale for why the requested accommodation(s) is/are necessary and appropriate relative to the impairment must be documented. As with other “high-stakes” examinations, the student must prove that they have a disorder(s) as well as a disability. The domains of a student's intellectual, cognitive, achievement, and social-emotional functioning must be explained in order to confirm a disorder(s) with actual test scores provided. Review of previous educational records and previous scores and accommodation(s) given other standardized admission tests such as the SAT, ACT, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, must be reported in the neuropsychological assessment report. The diagnosis as well as specific accommodation(s) needs to be documented in the report. There must be a detailed explanation as to why a specific accommodation is necessary as well as a rationale for the accommodation requested.
What should I do if I have more questions?
Please feel free to contact Scott Mellor if you have any questions at (805) 379-4939 or (818) 518-1057.