Students with diagnosed learning disabilities may be eligible to receive extended time on the ACT and SAT. However, in order to receive extended time, the student has to have specific diagnoses that relate to a need for having extended time.
Often parents have the misunderstanding that their student who has a diagnosis of ADHD, or anxiety, a reading disability, or a written language disability automatically qualifies for extended time. Unfortunately, this is a completely incorrect assumption.
Extended time for ACT/SAT and any other major national standardized test can be obtained if the student demonstrates through a defined diagnosis by a qualified mental health professional (generally a licensed psychologist or neuro-psychologist) that the student has a defined learning or mental health disability that causes her/him to function substantially below that of the Average person in a specific area (Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Memory, etc.).
ACT/SAT have to follow Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA law). The ADA law defines a disability as “a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity compared to the Average person in the population”.
The guidelines of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition is used to substantiate the presence of a disabling condition. To qualify for accommodations such as extended time the student and school must provide documentation that shows: a) the diagnosed condition substantially limits one or more major life and activities; and b) requests are appropriate and reasonable for the documented disability.
Having a diagnosis of ADHD by itself does not qualify a student for extended time because having ADHD does not mean that a student moves slowly through written material or writes slowly. The same is true for an anxiety condition.
What generally needs to be demonstrated is that the student has a defined diagnosis such as reading, written language, mathematics, speech language which significantly impacts her/his ability to efficiently move through testing. Meaning her/his scores have to lie significantly below the Average Range.
Physical disabilities may also qualify a student for accommodations as well as psychological or sensory disabilities.
It is important to understand that if a student does not have scores significantly below the Average Range (the substantial limitation) then she/he will not receive the accommodation.
Equally important is the student having a learning plan with her/his school that currently allows her/him to receive extended time, or a distraction reduced test setting or other such accommodations. An Individual Education Plan (IEP), a 504 Accommodation Plan or if in a private school – an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) is required.
If the student does not have a plan and has not received extended time at her/his school for the past 120 days, then they will be unable to receive extended time on the ACT or SAT. What ACT and SAT (or any other large national standardized entrance examination like the LSAT, MCAT, GRE) are trying to prevent is a student who was quite recently diagnosed with no previous history of accommodations suddenly needing them.
I hope this article is helpful in understanding the extended time process. If you have questions, please feel free to call me at 314-995-7201 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph Lenac, Licensed Psychologist