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New Guidelines, Standardized Test Accommodations

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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By Janet Thibeau

For years, students with disabilities have been denied accommodations when taking the LSAT exam, even when they’ve submitted the proper paperwork. This year, that’s changed, and not just for the LSAT, but for all national standardized tests. This ruling has far-reaching implications for any student who will be taking a standardized test and requesting accommodations. If you are student or the parent of a student who will be taking a standardized test, it’s important to understand these guidelines, each testing entities’ process for requesting accommodations, and the appeal process to use if your request for accommodations is denied.


In 2010, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) began an investigation into the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the group that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In 2012, the Department of Justice intervened in the class action. They alleged widespread failure to accommodate exam takers with disabilities, even in cases where applicants had submitted proper paperwork and demonstrated a history of testing accommodations. In 2014, the lawsuit was settled, and on September 8, 2015, the Justice Department issued a technical advisory about standardized testing accommodations that applies to many of the most popular national tests.

What standardized tests are covered?

The advisory applies to exams administered by any private, state, or local government entity, including:

  • High school equivalency exams (such as the GED)
  • High school entrance exams (such as the SSAT or ISEE)
  • College entrance exams (such as the SAT or ACT)
  • Exams for admission to professional schools (such as the LSAT or MCAT)
  • Admissions exams for graduate schools (such as the GRE or GMAT); and
  • Licensing exams for trade purposes (such as cosmetology) or professional purposes (such as bar exams or medical licensing exams, including clinical assessments.)

Key points

Key points in the new advisory include:

  • Students who receive testing accommodations in school based on an IEP or Section 504 Plan should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive informal accommodations should not be considered ineligible for accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive testing accommodations in a private school, without an IEP or Section 504, should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • High grades should not prevent a student from receiving accommodations. Students who perform well academically may still be entitled to test accommodations.
  • Students who receive accommodations on similar standardized and high-stakes tests should generally receive the same accommodations for additional tests. Documentation of previous accommodations should be sufficient.
  • Documentation used to support a request for testing accommodations must be reasonable and limited to what is needed to determine diagnosis and the need for accommodations. Acceptable documentation should include recommendations from medical professionals, proof of previous accommodations, and observations of educators.
  • Testing entities should defer to documentation from a qualified professional who has made an individualized assessment of the candidate that supports the need for the requested testing accommodations.
  • A testing entity must respond in a timely manner to requests for testing accommodations so as to ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
  • Testing entities should report accommodated scores in the same way they report scores generally. Flagging policies that impede individuals with disabilities from fairly competing for and pursuing educational and employment opportunities are prohibited.

ADA Testing Accommodations

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About the Author

Janet Thibeau works for Barlow Thibeau & Associates Education as a college consultant and educational advocate. She is the President-elect of MABIDA, the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Janet and her husband Jim have five children, four who have dyslexia. One of her children is a Landmark School alum and another is a current Landmark student.  

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Tags:  Accommodations ACT dyslexia GED Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities SAT standardized testing testing accommodations

Prevent Summer Learning Loss Before It Happens

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, May 30, 2017 Byline:  By Joanna A. Christodoulou

boy reading

"Reading must be integrated into summer activities."

Reading activities during the summer can play an important role in helping students maintain their reading skills. Summer slump, or the potential for academic skills to regress during school vacation, is a concern for many students.

Children with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, may be at a higher risk of summer slump than their peers (Christodoulou et al., 2017). More generally, children who may also be more vulnerable to summer slump are those who take a vacation not just from school, but also from engaging with text during the summer months. These reduced reading experiences may be because students don’t enjoy reading; they may not feel good about their reading skills; or they have limited access to the library or books at home. In addition to options to enroll students in summer reading instruction, camps, or related activities, other programs are available to families at little to no financial burden.

Parents can help by considering three goals

First, parents and children can set a reading intention together about what to achieve during the summer. A reading intention can describe what to do and how it will be done. The focus does not have to be on the total number of books read, but can also be on what each child wants to learn about (e.g., the solar system, gardening, etc.). Creating a certificate or written agreement that both parents and children sign can offer a fun way to support this commitment. This goal can also be achieved through summer reading programs offered locally in libraries or community centers.

Second, identify the correct reading level for your child. To do so, you may seek assistance from your school or library staff. One rule of thumb for texts appropriate for a child to read independently is that they read five or fewer words incorrectly for every 100 words in the text. Independent level texts can be read by the student on his/her own, or students can read these texts aloud to others. Keep in mind that texts that are more challenging should not be excluded from summer reading lists as these may be great candidates for parents and children to read together. Identifying your child’s reading level for books she or he can read independently and those she or he can read with a partner is an important goal to aim for before the end of the school year.

Third, parents can identify their child’s areas of interest. Collecting topics that are intriguing, exciting, informative, and of interest will be key to selecting high interest reading material that children are motivated to read (Kim, 2007). More importantly, the motivation to learn about high-interest topics by reading can help struggling readers overcome some barriers; this is a common trait shared among successful adults with dyslexia (Fink, 1998).

Several organizations offer online texts for students with dyslexia. TextProject offers free books across a wide range of reading levels. Bookshare is a free online library that offers ebooks for students who have challenges accessing print. The Perkins Library offers free reading resources (e.g., audio, large print books, playback equipment) for Massachusetts residents with reading disabilities. Learning Ally offers audiobooks that can be useful for pairing with texts (i.e., listen and read at the same time) that students may otherwise have some difficulty reading independently.

In addition to supporting positive reading experiences during the summer months, families may consider contributing to research efforts aiming to improve outcomes for struggling readers. Supporting area researchers is a way to empower families and children with reading disabilities or difficulties, advance the science of reading, and meet other community members invested in supporting reading development. These opportunities range in their time commitment, gift card and prize offerings, and location. More information can be found on the website of the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

For children with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, in particular, summer vacation provides an opportunity for positive reading outcomes, but to achieve this, reading must be integrated into summer activities. To access appropriate texts, families can visit the local library, enjoy book swaps with neighbors, or explore online reading opportunities.

Christodoulou, J.A., Cyr, A., Murtagh, J., Chang, P., Lin, J., Guarino, A.J., Hook, P., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2015). Impact of intensive summer reading intervention for early elementary school children with dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Fink, R. (1998). Literacy development in successful men and women with dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 48, 311–346.

Kim, J.S. (2007). The Effects of a Voluntary Summer Reading Intervention on Reading Activities and Reading Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 505-515.

About the Author:

Joanna A. Christodoulou Joanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

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Tags:  dyslexia language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning disabilities reading struggling reader summer summer reading summer regression summer slide summer slump

What We Know About LBLD and Learning

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, October 17, 2017 Byline:  Bob Broudo, Headmaster Landmark School

Bob Broudo Headmaster Landmark School

Part One of a Five-Part Series, What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability?

We KNOW that the awareness of dyslexia and Language-Based Learning Disabilities (LBLD) began around 1900 with observations of children who appeared “normal” and could learn many things, yet were not learning to read and write. They were thought to have “word blindness,” or a visual problem.

At Landmark, we define LBLD as:

"A Language-Based Learning Disability (LBLD) is the inability of individuals with average to above average cognitive ability to learn at their level of potential and to access curriculum through traditional educational techniques due to neurologically-based challenges with the intake, processing, and expression of language."

Pioneers in the Study of Language-Based Learning Disabilities

In the 1930s, educators and scientists Samuel Orton, Anna Gillingham, Edith Norrie, Rita Buchan, and others began to focus their work on reading and speech difficulties. They developed specific strategies, or remedial techniques, that seemed to help, without yet fully understanding the causes of these learning challenges. 

Their strategies included: multi-sensory inputs; hierarchical, tightly structured, micro-united instruction; review and practice (repetition and spiraling); and an emphasis on cracking the code, or using a child’s cognitive ability to analyze language. These strategies continue to be ever so relevant today.

Research Continues to Shed Light on LBLDlanguage based learning disability glossary

Since the 1930s, developments in neuroscience, research, and direct experience have shown that:

  • LBLD is a language-processing problem that interferes with an individual’s ability to realize learning potential yet is unrelated to intelligence.
  • LBLD affects HOW people learn, NOT whether they CAN learn.
  • Individuals with LBLD may have average to superior cognitive ability to learn, analyze, and problem solve, yet struggle to master language through traditional educational techniques.
  • LBLD is a neurologically based learning problem.
  • LBLD is a wide-ranging issue that affects school performance, social development, family life, and relationships.
  • LBLD is a hidden handicap that is not easily identified.
  • There is no “cure” for LBLDs
  • LBLD can be devastating if undiagnosed and unremediated, and can lead to diminished self-confidence, school failure, substance abuse, involvement with the juvenile justice system, and other troubling outcomes.

Keys to Success

We also KNOW that with appropriate intervention, children and adolescents with LBLD become successful, productive, often entrepreneurial adults with LBLD. To achieve this success, we know that INTERVENTION is the key. LBLDs and dyslexia are biological, neurological, hereditary conditions for which there is no MEDICAL treatment, yet, through a diagnostic–prescriptive approach, appropriate educational models DO provide a solution.

Through science, research, and extensive experience, we KNOW that such an appropriate educational program for students with LBLD should include:

  • A thorough and appropriate diagnosis of the student’s relative processing and learning strengths and challenges
  • Individualized intervention and REMEDIATION
  • A structured, systematic language-based approach
  • A skills-based curriculum
  • Teamwork, including the parents, student, teachers, and specialists

A Rallying Call for Awareness and Collaboration

15-20% have lbld logoPerhaps the way that we can affect the most comprehensive change for all learners, especially the 15% – 20% with LBLD, is to come together, let our voices be heard, and provide better support for those that are on the front lines — teachers.

Let’s call upon educational models to become more aligned with medical models. In other words, those that are diagnostic and prescriptive.

Merging science, instruction, research, and assessment for ALL students, as the medical model would suggest, means that we provide a more thorough and appropriate educational experience for all.

We need to come together and create MUCH greater awareness, much broader and more meaningful collaborations, and a movement that cannot be overlooked — one without politics, prejudice, personal pet projects, or predetermined prescribed programs.



What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability? Five Part Series

Through Landmark School’s blog,, we launched the five-part series What Is a Language-Based Learning Disability? in conjunction with Dyslexia Awareness Month. This is the first article in the series.

Part One: What We Know About LBLD and Learning, by Bob Broudoflame
Part Two: Language-Based Learning Disabilities: A Primer, by Melody O'Neil
Part Three: Help Your Struggling Learner: Remediation Is a Key to Success, by Christine Ozahowski
Part Four: It's a Myth That Young Children Cannot Be Screened for Dyslexia, by Nadine Gaab, PhD
Part Five: Language-Based Learning Disabilities on the Homefront, by Angela Timpone Gowans

brilliance award winner icon's post by Bob Broudo about LBLD and Learning won a 2017 Gold InspirED School Marketers Brilliance Award in the national competition that recognizes excellence in private and independent school marketing and communications.

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