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Testing, testing

Having an IEP doesn't guarantee accommodations on college admissions tests.

By Valle Dwight

Students with learning disabilities are going to college in record numbers, and the first step in that process is often standardized college admission tests. If your high schooler has a learning disability and is on an IEP, you might think that he’d automatically qualify for accommodations on such tests as the SAT and ACT. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Accommodations on admission tests can include extra time, larger print, frequent breaks, and preferential seating, all of which may be necessary to even the playing field for teenagers with learning issues. But to get them, students must prove that they (a) have a learning disability and (b) need the accommodations.

At the College Board, some 70,000 students request accommodations each year, according to Steven Pereira, executive director of the association's Services for Students With Disabilities. Usually 80% to 85% are granted their request. In many cases, proving the disability and need is straightforward, but not always, he says. “A lot of factors weigh in,” Pereira says.

Experts agree that the key to getting accommodations is time and documentation.

“You have to be on top of this early,” says Julieta Contreras, a tutor at Chyten Tutors and Test Preparation in Scottsdale, Ariz. She adds that parents have to get involved to make sure the school and student are working on the application early enough. “Usually in high school, parents stop going into school, but this is a time they need to start advocating for their child, even if the kids are resistant.”

Contreras suggests starting the process by the end of sophomore year, and Pereira says that freshman year is not too early.

Valle Dwight is a reporter, writer, and mother of two school-aged boys. She has written for many magazines, including FamilyFun, Wondertime, and Working Mother.