Contribution from freelance writer Lucy Wyndham
Every once in a while, the Leka Team is happy to welcome external contributors and share their food for thoughts. This post has been written by Lucy Wyndham whose husband is on the spectrum.

unsplash-logoDerek Huang

No matter who you are, there are three little letters that can strike fear. The SAT and ACT are both highly important standardized tests that can determine the rest of your life. However, they don’t have to be so scary. As a parent, it’s your job to make sure your child goes into the test confidently and well-prepared. For parents of kids with autism, this might seem like a scary task, but with the right preparation, you can ensure your child passes with flying colors.

Determining Which Test to Take

For students with autism, taking a standardized test once can be intimidating so it might be best to focus on taking just one of these tests. Schools will administer the SAT usually in October of the student’s sophomore year. This can be used to determine your kid’s ability to do well on the SAT their senior year. If your student didn’t like the SAT or didn’t do so well, you may want to consider the ACT. However, in general, the ACT is more helpful for students that excel in math and science. It is also great for students who struggle with writing because the essay section of the ACT is optional.

Preparing for the Test

Regardless of whether your child decides to take the SAT or ACT, it’s important that they enter the testing facility knowing the format and how to use their time wisely. You can find free practice exams and have your child complete one at least once a week. This will allow them to become familiar with the test and ease their anxiety. You may want to sign them up for a prep course as well. If you do, advise your child to sit in the front of the classroom. There are even some classes that provide individual guidance for children with autism and can help your student navigate the test.

Accommodations on Test Day

When you sign up for your child’s test, be sure to also apply for accommodations on the test day. Students with autism spectrum disorders are generally allowed extra time to complete the test. For the SAT, this is usually 50-100% extra time, while the ACT is about 50%. Some students can also break up the sections and take the test over the span of several days. To apply for accommodations, you will need to request it from the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). Be sure to specifically state the disability as diagnosed and provide professional credentials. You will also need to provide recommended accommodations and functional limitations. Be sure to document any of your interaction with the board for evidence, should there be any bumps on the day of testing.

The SAT and ACT do not have to be the scariest times of your kid’s life. All you have to do is work together with your student as well as the College Board to ensure he or she is well prepared.