Students may fall behind in school for a variety of reasons. When these problems are due to a learning disability, developmental delay, or other significant cognitive or emotional difficulties they may qualify for accommodations in school and on standardized testing. In the school system, students can receive accommodations through either an individualized education plan (IEP) or a 504 plan.
A 504 plan is a simple plan that can be agreed upon during a meeting between parents and teachers. The 504 plan does not state explicit goals for the child, but it can provide behavioral modifications and/or supports within the classroom.
An IEP is a more specific and formal document for students who qualify for special education services. An IEP is based on a formal evaluation process and lists explicit, measurable goals for the student. The IEP describes an individualized education plan for the student, which can include one-on-one tutoring, special educations classes, testing accommodations, etc. The IEP is reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that the goals that have been set and the interventions and/or accommodations that have been recommended continue to be appropriate for the student.
In order to receive accommodations on standardized testing, a comprehensive evaluation such as a neuropsychological evaluation, must be completed and demonstrate areas of cognitive functioning and/or academic achievement that are significantly below the performance of the child’s peers.
While your child may have been assessed by the school system, one of the strengths of a neuropsychological evaluation is the ability to objectively measure a child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. The information gathered through a neuropsychological evaluation can provide empirical support for the need for accommodations. The information about a student’s strengths and weaknesses provided by a neuropsychological evaluation can be used to create an effective treatment plan to be implemented in a student’s IEP or 504 plan.
A neuropsychological evaluation begins with a thorough clinical interview that reviews developmental history, medical history, academic history, family history, and current situation. In addition, the evaluation includes neuropsychological testing that addresses general cognitive abilities, attention, memory, learning, decision-making and problem-solving, and academic achievement. Finally, the evaluation may also include the completion of rating scales by the child, family members, or teachers.
Testing accommodations are available for students with learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In order to qualify for test accommodations, the diagnoses must be documented by a comprehensive evaluation within three years of the request for accommodations. As the application review process for testing accommodations can take up to 6-7 weeks, it is necessary to plan ahead to have a completed evaluation submitted for any request for testing accommodations.