My daughter's high school says it would be helpful to have her tested for her learning disability. They already give her some accommodations but said the testing would help with the SAT and college too. I've heard horror stories of how much parents spend and no idea what tests to ask for? What should I do?

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Jules Csillag, Speech Language Pathologist and Learning Specialist

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The answers everyone has provided are all right on the money (no pun intended), and are hopefully helpful to you. I'm unsure which testing accommodations she's receiving already, how they are helping her, or what determined her eligibility– is it through a 504 plan?

To obtain eligibility, your daughter does need documentation of a disability that woudl impact her ability to take the SAT (e.g. something reading-, writing-, or attention-based), and she must have documented evidence of the fact that she has been using (and requiring) accommodations before the SAT (see the eligibility page) for more on this).

All this aside, the primary purpose of testing is not to seek accommodations– it is for you, your daughter, and your daughter's school to have a clear(er) idea of how her mind works. This can then impact everything from how she is taught to how she demonstrates her knowledge, and part of that may require testing accommodations. Be aware that not all testing accommodations are created equally, and there may be certain accommodations that she does not benefit from. Plus, in addition to the college board requiring it, consistent use of accommodations is essential (read more about types of accommodations and best practices in The Case for Testing Accommodations).

Lastly, while the school is legally required to help you obtain a psychoeducational evaluation, if it is too long or you would like to do the testing privately for another reason, universities and hospitals tend to do psychoeducational evaluations for a more reasonable rate or a sliding scale.

All the best!

Lisa Beymer, University Faculty & Supervisor, Education Blogger, Special Education Teacher & Advocate, Certified Principal

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I am happy that you are asking such great questions to advocate for your daughter!

From your statement about "her learning disability", I assume that your daughter has already at some point been tested and identified as having a learning disability. If this is the case, and she is receiving individualized services through the special education department, then there should exist a natural repetitive cycle of her academic reassessment. Students on IEPs are reassessed every 3 years to determine if they continue to qualify for specialized services. This is to be done by the school team at their cost.

The only reason you should consider outside testing is if you as a parent feel that you would like more information about your daughter's abilities. But, first, you should bring any concerns you have before the school team and discuss additional testing. You have a right to discuss further testing, and to be a part of the decision-making process that the school team goes through to determine if additional testing is necessary to inform your daughter's services and support. Any testing that the school team and family determines and agrees are necessary should be at the cost of the school.

As others have said before me, it doesn't seem that the testing is what you need moving forward as much as your daughter's documented diagnosis of a disability. With this documented disability, your daughter will receive whatever testing accommodations the team find's appropriate for the SAT. These accommodations, written on her IEP, are legally binding.

As students with disabilities near graduation, the school team should be preparing to either reassess (to confirm, if necessary) or document the student's continued need for post-secondary supports. A student who is graduating high school should have what's called a transition meeting, where the school team, the family, and the student discuss what goals the student/family wants to create for the student's life beyond high school. Goals are set for vocation (job), post-secondary school, and/or independent living. These goals, and any necessary services or supports for the student to meet these goals, are documented. These documents are legally binding, demonstrating the student's continued need for supports based on a disability. Any post-secondary school that accepts the student is then legally required to provide services to support the student. For example, I have had many students in my college courses who are supported through the Disability Resource Center on our college's campus. Some of their supports have been designated note-takers for class lecture, enlarged print on assignments and presentations, shortened assignments, and/or extended time on tests in a separate setting. As a faculty member, I am obligated to provide these supports due to the student's documented disability.

Tedra Osell, PhD, Parent of 2e teen, former homeschooler and college professor, SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator

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Private testing can be expensive, certainly--but if the school is recommending an evaluation, the school should perform it for free, if you agree to it.

The point of the evaluation, for SAT/college purposes, is likely simply that having documented evidence of a learning disability is necessary for certain kinds of accommodations; it sounds to me as if the school is already providing those accommodations without a formal diagnosis and is simply recommending that you get the diagnosis on paper so that your daughter will continue to be eligible for, and receive, accommodations going forward. Sounds to me like you have her in the right school!

Jill Berkowicz, Educator, Adjunct Professor, Author

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Your question is a good one.
Begin with more questions... Why is her disability only being identified in high school? Was it noticed earlier? If so what steps were taken? What are her learning behaviors that have caused them to make the accommodations? and recommendations? How did they determine which accommodations to implement? What is the basis upon which they are recommending she needs help with the SAT and in college? You should not be expected to ask for which test or to pay for the testing...this is something that the school should recommend and ask for your agreement. They should also do the testing.

Anonymous, Educator, Support Executive

Nice question, from Yahoo Tech Support opinion, it totally depends upon the need, of your children. You may try that for testing on your child, how much it is affected or not.

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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It sounds as though your daughter's high school is encouraging you to pursue formal testing because the testing companies - either the SAT or ACT - will require it, and the colleges will as well. Up util 12th grade most schools only require a doctors note from the family physician or pediatrician to kick off academic accommodations. But under the law, testing companies and colleges have a right to determine documentation standards and eligibility - and require more. A note from your daughter's doctor or psychologist may have some place in the case you present, but at the college level in particular, universities rely on intelligence and psycho-evaluative tests tell the story.

As for horror stories, if by this you are referring to the costs of these tests - upwards of $5000.00 - you are not mistaken. Worse, sometimes after a child has taken all these tests, it turns out they were not the correct ones to pursue. This can be maddening!

To avoid this, it's critically important you become informed about specific documentation standards for each testing company, and potentially at the college level.

I can tell you this: some of the tests your daughter can take have an adult and a juvenile version. The adult version is what is required by the colleges. And anyone 16 and over can take it. Although, the SAT and ACT will accept a juvenile version of a test, the adult version is best to take because it will carry over to college and be helpful in your securing supports at the next stage in her education.

To limit over-testing, and undue expense, you should inquire about the specific exams required by the SAT/ACT and a range of colleges. Some of the more common test requirements are: Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV (WAIS –IV) Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test Visual-Auditory-Digit Span Test (VADS) Woodcock Johnson Achievement Test (WJ-III) Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Scales Nelson Denny Reading Test (G-CD ROM Version & Form H paper-pencil Version)

The above list may by no means complete and should be individualized to your daughter's needs. But be cautious about additional testing. It may give you insights about your daughter, but won't necessarily yield you the documentation and official academic supports you need to secure.

The above testing can get expensive. However, some college disability offices may be willing to offer financial assistance or refer you to a licensed psychologist who charges reasonable fees. My feeling and experience is that there are practitioners who can administer the above tests (and more) for approximately $850.00 - $1100.00. If the testing gets up in the range of $3000.00 - $5000.00 you may be overpaying, or your child is being encouraged to take a range of tests because it's important to get a larger diagnostic picture.

I hope the above provides you some guideposts, and equally importantly the names of some of the specific tests that may allow your daughter to become eligible for supports.

I appreciate your asking such an important question! Best of luck!

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