Pinpointing Disability Accommodation Needs: What Evidence Is Most Relevant?
Diagnosticians who recommend educational accommodations for postsecondary students with learning, cognitive, and psychiatric disabilities often reference specific diagnostic test scores as a basis for the recommended accommodations. Moreover, accommodation decision-makers often follow diagnosticians’ lead and/or rely on the diagnostic scores themselves to make and justify accommodation determinations. The present paper considers the ecological validity of these diagnostic test scores, focusing on their generalizability across time, setting, and dimension of performance. A wide variety of research suggests a need for circumspection and care when using diagnostic test scores to make accommodation decisions. Illustrative data are presented showing that scores from diagnostic cognitive tests do not significantly predict students’ ability to access a realistic test. Diagnostic tests should not be unduly criticized, and data from these tests can be helpful, but both clinicians and accommodation decision-makers should carefully consider issues of diagnostic test scores’ ecological validity and make nuanced conclusions about the needs of a client/applicant based on a wide variety of evidence.
KeywordsLearning disabilities Extra time ADHD Testing accommodations
The illustrative data in the present paper were from a study funded by a Psi Chi Faculty Advisor Grant to the first author. The opinions as expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funders.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional). Approval was obtained from the ethics board at the institution where the data was collected.
No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.
- Arnett, P. A. (Ed.). (2013). Secondary influences on neuropsychological test performance. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Brown, J. I., Fishco, V. V., & Hanna, G. (1993). Nelson-Denny Reading Test. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar
- Bush, S. S., Ruff, R. M., Tröster, A. I., Barth, J. T., Koffler, S. P., Pliskin, N. H., ... & Silver, C. H. (2005). Symptom validity assessment: Practice issues and medical necessity NAN policy & planning committee. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 20(4), 419–426.Google Scholar
- Cronbach, L. J. (1984). Essentials of psychological testing (4th ed.). New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
- Cronbach, L. J., Gleser, G. C., Nanda, H., & Rajaratnam, N. (1972). The dependability of behavioral measurements: Theory of generalizability for scores and profiles. New York, NY: John Wiley.Google Scholar
- Dawes, R. (1994). House of cards. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Eckert, T. L., & Lovett, B. J. (2013). Principles of behavioral assessment. In D. H. Saklofske, C. R. Reynolds, & V. L. Schwean (Eds.), Oxford handbook of child psychological assessment (pp. 366–384). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Epstein, J. N., Langberg, J. M., Rosen, P. J., Graham, A., Narad, M. E., Antonini, T. N., Brinkman, W. B., Froehlich, T., Simon, J. O., & Altaye, M. (2011). Evidence for higher reaction time variability for children with ADHD on a range of cognitive tasks including reward and event rate manipulations. Neuropsychology, 25(4), 427–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gordon, M., Barkley, R. A., & Lovett, B. J. (2006). Tests and observational measures. In R. A. Barkley (Ed.), Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A handbook for diagnosis and treatment (3rd ed., pp. 369–388). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Gould, S. J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Harrison, A. G. (2015). Child and adolescent psychoeducational evaluations. In M. W. Kirkwood (Ed.), Validity testing in the assessment of children and adolescents: evaluating exaggeration, feigning, and noncredible effort (pp. 185–206). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Heilbronner, R. L., Sweet, J. J., Morgan, J. E., Larrabee, G. J., Millis, S. R., & Participants, C. (2009). American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology Consensus Conference Statement on the neuropsychological assessment of effort, response bias, and malingering. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 23(7), 1093–1129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Heward, W. L. (2013). Exceptional children (10th ed.). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
- Ketterlin-Geller, L. R., & Johnstone, C. (2006). Accommodations and universal design: supporting access to assessments in higher education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 19(2), 163–172.Google Scholar
- Kleinmann, A. E. (2005). Not so fast: Using speed to differentiate high and average readers. Unpublished dissertation, Syracuse University.Google Scholar
- Lerner, C. S. (2004). Accommodations for the learning disabled: a level playing field or affirmative action for elites? Vanderbilt Law Review, 57, 1043–1124.Google Scholar
- Lovett, B. J., Gordon, M., & Lewandowski, L. J. (2016). Legal conceptions of impairment: implications for the assessment of psychiatric disabilities. In S. Goldstein & J. A. Naglieri (Eds.), Assessing impairment: from theory to practice (2nd ed., pp. 125–139). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nelson, J. M., Whipple, B., Lindstrom, W., & Foels, P. A. (2014). How is ADHD assessed and documented? Examination of psychological reports submitted to determine eligibility for postsecondary disability. Journal of Attention Disorders, Advance online, available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054714561860, 108705471456186.
- Pardy, B. (2016). Head starts and extra time: academic accommodation on post-secondary exams and assignments for students with cognitive and mental disabilities. Education Law Journal, 25(2), 191–208.Google Scholar
- Suhr, J. A. (2015). Psychological assessment: a problem-solving approach. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Wasserman, J. D. (2012). A history of intelligence assessment: the unfinished tapestry. In D. P. Flanagan & P. L. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment (3rd ed., pp. 3–55). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Woodcock, R. W., McGrew, K. S., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities. Itasca, IL: Riverside.Google Scholar