September 2015 Newsletter
Homeschooled Students with Disabilities
What you need to know about ACT accommodations
by Joyce Blankenship and Faith Berens
Most college-bound high schoolers end up taking either the SAT aptitude test or the ACT achievement test. These tests are one way colleges evaluate the qualities of applicants, and good scores are important. But for students with disabilities, the testing format and environment may present special challenges, raising the issue of reasonable accommodations.
Does your high school student need an accommodation when taking the ACT or SAT? We’d like to help you navigate this process.
The first step is to fill out an accommodation form for your student. It is appropriate for a parent to sign his or her name for the school official’s signature in the designated sections on the application forms.
For students to receive accommodations on college entrance tests, you need to provide documentation, including at least the following items:
For the ACT, the student’s disability must generally have been diagnosed or re-confirmed by a qualified professional within the three academic years prior to the date of the request for accommodations. The diagnostic report must include specific recommendations for accommodations, as well as an explanation of why each accommodation is recommended and how it alleviates the impact of the disability when taking a timed standardized test.
Read the ACT's Policy for Documentation.
The ACT provides a Teacher Survey Form; typically, public school teachers complete this form and it is included in the accommodations request submitted by guidance counselors and/or school staff. A representative from the ACT whom we spoke with, thought the Teacher Survey Form would be a good idea for homeschool teachers to complete and include in the application request for special testing accommodations. We encourage parents to print several copies and in addition to completing one yourself, also request other teachers, such as a music teacher, art teacher, Sunday School teacher, or sport coach to complete one as well. The teacher(s) completing the form should be able to speak about the student’s special needs, how his disabilities or challenges impact daily life skills, such as reading, writing, staying on task, etc.
It is wise for parents to get documentation from the child’s pediatrician or family physician stating that he or she is aware of the child’s special needs, such as any specific diagnosis, including conditions like dyslexia or ADHD. Such documentation will help to show the history of your child’s disability. For students with physical disabilities, documentation from a physician is required by the ACT.
Applicants must also provide information about prior accommodations made in a similar setting, such as in academic classes and other testing situations. For homeschoolers, this can take the form of a letter from the parent describing the accommodations that have been provided in the homeschool environment and program.
HSLDA Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada suggests including in your documentation a note stating that you are a homeschooling parent educating your child in accordance with the law of your state.
HSLDA members may access a sample letter explaining the accommodations used in a home education program of a child with dyslexia. (This letter may be used as a guide when composing your own letter to the ACT which you should customize based on your child’s special needs and unique circumstances.)
If your student has ever received special education services, related services such as therapies, or taken part-time classes through a public school and had an IEP (individual education plan), individual service plan (ISP), or a 504 Accommodation Plan, be sure to include a copy of that paperwork as part of your child’s documentation.
See the ACT Services for Examinees with Disabilities page for information about the types of accommodations that are available.
To assist with test preparation, the ACT provides a booklet for students who plan to test with alternate test formats, such as braille, DVDs, or a reader and for students who plan to test with a regular type test booklet.
Parents should keep good records in case they need to appeal a denial of accommodations. HSLDA’s attorneys and special needs consultants are very willing to work with HSLDA member families who experience problems obtaining access to information, forms, or assistance with the application process, or are denied extended time or other appropriate accommodations.
Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up your student for the ACT or apply for accommodations. Start this application process early—several months before your student’s preferred exam date. Also, we don’t recommend taking the ACT once as a “practice run” without accommodations if you know your student truly needs the accommodations. It is better to simply have your student prepare for the exam by using test prep materials. There are many ACT prep classes and test prep materials commercially available. Additionally, parents may order free practice tests in alternate formats from the ACT, by filling out the order form at the ACT website.
The process of applying for accommodations on the ACT can be a little tricky. To help simplify it, follow these three steps:
For questions or additional assistance, call ACT Test Accommodations at 319.337.1332.
Homeschooling Students with Special Needs: