Step-By-Step Guide to Requesting Accommodations on SAT and ACT Exams

The transition from high school to college can be a daunting experience for any teenager. Part of the transition process is preparing for and taking the entrance exams for college. If the student is receiving accommodations in school, they may qualify to receive special accommodations while taking a college entrance exam.

The ACT and College Board Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) do not approve accommodations for all college entrance exams. Contact your school, college, or testing center for the CLEP and ACCUPLACER tests. Students with documented disabilities may request accommodations on PSAT-related assessments with the help of their school counselor.

Differences Between SAT and ACT Exams

Most universities accept both SAT and ACT and the length of both tests is approximately the same.  ACT has more questions in that same period, so fast workers may prefer it.  However, the best one for a student is the one they feel best about, so trying sections of both before choosing which one to study for is recommended by most test prep professionals. Both ACT and SAT have free practice sections available.

SATACT
Reading (65 min, 52 Questions)Reading (35 min, 35 Questions)
Writing (35 min, 44 Questions)English (45 min, 75 Questions)
Math (80 min, 58 Questions)Math (60 min, 60 Questions)
Optional essay (50 min)Science (35 min, 40 Questions)
Scored 400-1600Optional essay (30 min)
Scored 1-36

A student must have approval from the College Board SSD (for the SAT) or ACT to use accommodations on an exam. If a student uses extended test time or other accommodations without prior approval, their test results will be invalid.

The process of requesting accommodations varies depending on the exam. These are the steps to request accommodations on SAT and ACT college entrance exams:

Step 1: Document the need for accommodations.

The student must have a documented disability. Documentation can be a current psycho-educational evaluation or a report from a doctor. The type of documentation depends on the student’s circumstances. The disability must impact the student’s ability to participate in the college entrance exams. If the student is requesting a specific accommodation, documentation should demonstrate the difficulty the student has performing the related task. The College Board provides a disability documentation guideline and accommodation documentation guideline, as does the ACT. Doctor notes and Individualized Education Program (IEPs) or 504 plans may not be enough to validate a request for accommodations; you must provide supporting information, such as test scores. 

While students typically only receive accommodations if they have a documented disability, some (very few) students who have a temporary disability or special healthcare need can also be eligible. The request is different in these circumstances for those who wish to take the SAT exam and students are often urged to reregister for a date after they have healed. If the student cannot postpone their test, the request form for temporary assistance must be completed by a school official, student (if over 18) or parent, doctor, and teacher. Then, the form must be faxed or mailed to the College Board for processing.

Step 2: Allow plenty of time for processing.

It takes time to apply for accommodations, including a processing period of up to seven weeks after all required documentation has been submitted to the College Board SSD or ACT. If they request additional documentation, or if a request is resubmitted, approval can take an additional seven weeks. Start as early as possible before the exam date to allow enough time for processing, responding to a request for more documentation, and additional processing time. If the student will take the exam in the fall, they should begin the process in the spring to allow sufficient time for processing.

Step 3: Identify appropriate accommodations.

If the student has a formal education plan, review the current plan, and note accommodations listed throughout, especially (but not only) those the student uses during assessments. Read through recent medical evaluations, prescriptions, and records to ensure all accommodations have been included in the formal education plan, if the student has one, or to locate appropriate accommodations recommended by medical professionals. You may recognize some of the Possible Accommodations for SAT and ACT Entrance Exams.

Some accommodations may only be provided during certain sections of the exam, depending on the specific accommodation requested. For example, a student with dyscalculia may receive extended time during the math section of the exam but not for any other subject.

Step 4: Submit the request for accommodations.

The easiest way to request SAT accommodations is to go through your student’s school. If you choose to go through the school, the school’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Coordinator (Special Education Coordinator, Guidance/School Counselors, etc.) can go online to review the SAT Suite Accommodations and Supports Verification Checklist and submit the application. Having the coordinator submit the application will help streamline the process. Homeschooled students or those who choose not to go through the school may request accommodations on the SAT exam by printing the Student Eligibility Form and submitting all documentation by fax or postal mail.

Requesting accommodations for the ACT exam requires working with a school official who is a part of the IEP team. The accommodations requested should be similar to the accommodations currently being received in school and must be approved by ACT before the test. All requests, including appeals, must be submitted by the late registration deadline for the preferred test date. Homeschooled students may request accommodations on the ACT exam by creating an ACT account online and submitting the required documents electronically.

Step 5: Register for the college exam.

Once the student is approved for SAT accommodations, they will receive a Service for Students with Disability (SSD) number that must be included when registering for the test. The school’s SSD Coordinator should ensure all the correct accommodations are in place when it is time to take the college exam. Approved accommodations will remain in effect for one year after graduation from high school.

Additional Information

School to Adulthood: Transition Planning Toolkit for High School, Life, and Work

Looking to the future can feel exciting, hopeful, confusing, overwhelming—or all emotions at once. For families supporting a young person with a disability, it’s never too soon to begin planning to ensure a smooth process from the teen years toward whatever happens next. This toolkit supports families as they organize this multiyear project.

For a visual map of the ages and stages of high school transition process, check out PAVE’s infographic: What’s Next? High School Transition Planning Timeline.

Learn the Words

A good place to begin is a Glossary of Key Terms for Life After High School Planning, which provides vocabulary building and an overview of topics relevant to this important phase of life. 

Pandemic Impacts

A student receiving special education services has a right to education through age 21, if needed, to meet requirements and achieve readiness. Some IEP teams may determine that because of COVID-19 a student who has not yet received a diploma needs to stay in school beyond 21 to access Recovery Services, a term developed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to help students recover learning losses related to the pandemic. Decisions about Recovery Services are made by IEP teams, which include parents and students.

OSPI provides a Family Information Session on Transition Recovery, available on YouTube from June 2, 2021. The presentation slides are also available online, and families may call OSPI at 360-725-6075 with questions about Transition Recovery Services.

Earning a Diploma

To earn a high-school diploma in Washington State, students must:

OSPI provides a two-page summary of graduation requirements to support families and students. Included is this statement: “Students who receive special education services under an Individualized Education Program (IEP), also have an IEP Transition Plan, which begins by the school year when a student turns 16 or sooner. The HSBP is required to align with their IEP Transition Plan to ensure a robust planning process toward post-high school goals.”

Various state agencies collaborated to provide a guidebook: Guidelines for Aligning High School & Beyond Plans (HSBP) and IEP Transition Plans.

The state’s 2019 legislature changed graduation requirements (HB 1599). Students may earn a Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) or a Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA) to graduate. How a student earns a CIA is determined by their IEP team.

Students with disabilities seeking a diploma through General Educational Development (GED) testing may be eligible for testing accommodations. A website called passged.com lists a variety of disability conditions that might make a person eligible for testing supports.

Commencement Access

Regardless of when a diploma is earned, a student can participate in Commencement at the end of a traditional senior year, with peers, under a Washington provision called Kevin’s Law. Families may want to plan well in advance with school staff to consider how senior year events are accessible to youth with disabilities.

The Big Picture

The right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) includes the right to school-based services that prepare a young person with a disability for adult life.

Here are links to a training video, infographic, and article:

Various state agencies collaborated to provide a downloadable guidebook: Guidelines for Aligning High School & Beyond Plans (HSBP) and IEP Transition Plans. Included are career-planning tools and linkages to current information about Graduation Pathways, which changed in 2019 when the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1599.

Student Self-Advocacy

As they move toward adulthood, many students benefit from opportunities to practice skills of self-advocacy and self-determination. One way to foster those skills is to encourage youth to get more involved in their own Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). To support that, PAVE provides this article: Attention Students: Lead your own IEP meetings and take charge of your future. Included is a handout that students might use to contribute to meeting agendas.

The RAISE Center (National Resources for Advocacy, Independence, Self-determination and Employment) provides a blog with transition related news, information, ideas and opinions. Topics in 2020-21 include how to “Be the Best You,” how issues of race and disability intersect with equity, and how “The Disability Agenda Could Bring Unity to A Fragmented Society,” by RAISE Center co-director Josie Badger, who is a person living with disability.

Student Rights after High School

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) ends when a student leaves secondary education. The protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are ongoing throughout the lifespan.

These laws provide for appropriate accommodations in public programs and facilities. To support these disability protections, The IEP accommodations page or a Section 504 Plan can travel with a student into higher education, a vocational program, or work. Often a special services office at an institution for higher learning includes a staff member responsible for ensuring that disability rights are upheld. PAVE provides an article with general information about Section 504 rights that apply to all ages: Section 504: A Plan for Equity, Access and Accommodations.

Universal Design supports everyone

Asking for rights to be upheld is not asking for special favors. A person living with disability, Kyann Flint, wrote an article for PAVE to describe how Universal Design supports inclusion. Her article can provide inspiration for young people looking for examples of what is possible, now as ever: COVID-19 and Disability: Access to Work has Changed.

Agencies that can help

Washington State’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) provides services for high-school students engaged in transition planning as well as adults seeking employment. PAVE provides an article that describes Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and more: Ready for Work: Vocational Rehabilitation Provides Guidance and Tools.

DVR’s website includes a section with information about Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (TVR), which is available for people with tribal affiliations in some areas of the state. Each TVR program operates independently. Note that some TVR programs list service areas by county but that sovereign lands are not bound by county lines. Contact each agency for complete information about program access, service area, and eligibility.

Services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are provided by Washington’s Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth (CDHY), which was formerly called the Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss (CDHL). This statewide resource supports all deaf and hard of hearing students in Washington, regardless of where they live or attend school.

Services for individuals who are blind or living with low vision are provided by Washington’s Department of Services for the Blind (DSB). Youth services, Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), Vocational Rehabilitation, Business Enterprise Program, and mobility and other independent-living skills are served by DSB.

The Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) also has a variety of school-to-work and waiver programs that support youth. PAVE provides a video to support families through the DDA eligibility process. An article provides further detail: How to Prepare for a DDA Assessment.

Not all youth with disabilities are able to access employment-related services through DVR, TVR, DSB, or DDA. A limited additional option is Goodwill, which provides access to a virtual learning library. Students can take classes at their own pace for skills development. Employment skills, workplace readiness, interviewing skills and more are part of the training materials. To request further information, call 253-573-6507, or send an email to: library@goodwillwa.org.

Graduation’s over: Why is school calling?

Schools are responsible to track the outcomes of their special education services. Here’s an article to help families get ready to talk about how things are going: The School Might Call to Ask About a Young Adult’s Experience After High School: Here’s Help to Prepare

Benefits Planning

A consideration for many families of youth with disabilities is whether lifelong benefits are needed. Applying for social security just past the young person’s 18th birthday creates a pathway toward a cash benefit and enables the young person to access Medicaid (public health insurance) and various programs that depend on Medicaid eligibility.

The Washington Initiative for Supported Employment (gowise.org) provides benefit planning information and resources through a program called BenefitU.

When a person 18 or older has a disability, family members may want to stay involved in helping them make decisions. Supported Decision Making (SDM) is the formal name for one legal option. Washington law (Chapter 11.130 in the Revised Code of Washington) includes Supported Decision Making as an option under the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act. The law changed in 2020 when the state passed Senate Bill 6287. The changes took effect Jan. 1, 2022. PAVE’s article about Supported Decision Making has more information about this and other options for families to support an adult with a disability.

Possible Accommodations for SAT and ACT Entrance Exams

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Extended time

  • Only if the disability causes them to work more slowly than others
  • May not be necessary for every section
  • If necessary for reading, will be provided for every section

Reading and seeing accommodations

  • Large-print test book
  • Braille with raised line drawings
  • Tactile graphics with a human reader or prerecorded audio
  • Assistive technology, such as text-to-speech

Recording responses

  • Large-print answer sheet
  • Recording answers accommodations
  • Computer for word processing for essay and short answer only
  • Record answers in their test books
  • Scribe to record both multiple-choice and essay or short answer

Use of four-function calculator

Assistive technology

  • Must request each device or software separately
  • Electronic magnifying machines
  • Text-to-speech (screen readers) and speech-to-text
  • Electronic/talking calculators

Breaks

  • Extended time (10 minutes)
  • Additional (5 minutes each)

Other accommodations

  • Signing or orally presenting instructors
  • Printed copy of verbal instructions
  • Colored overlays
  • Preferential seating
  • Wheelchair accessibility
  • School-based setting
  • Permission for food, drink, or medication
  • Permission to test blood sugar and access to testing supplies

COVID – 19 Updates:

  • Check the for updates related to COVID-19 and guidelines for participating in testing
  • Check the test center’s website for any additional or specific entry requirements, including College Board or local public health guidelines
  • If students don’t feel well on test day, they should contact Customer Service immediately to set a new test date.

Source:

Accommodations and English Learner Supports for Educators

Accommodations on College Board Exams

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

How to Decide on a Post-Secondary Program

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Talk with your parents and/or guardians:

  • What are my abilities and strengths?
  • How does my disability affect my learning and ability to show what I know on tests?
  • What accommodations do I need to be successful?
  • What postsecondary education or training programs do my teachers and school counselors recommend for my areas of interest?

Talk together about your concerns with Student Support Services / Disability Office

  • A school’s location could deter your child, even if the program is perfect. Where is the school located and does that school setting (urban, suburban, or rural) meet your student’s needs? If they cannot live independently, what is the distance from home?
  • Does the student/instructor ratio ensure your student can access office hours with their instructor as needed?
  • Not all programs provide the same accommodations, and colleges do not make modifications to alter academic requirements.  Accommodations are what make it possible for your student to access the curriculum.  An inaccessible program would be a waste of time and money.
  • Are the housing options accessible for your student’s individual needs?
  •  Will they require someone to assist with self-help (like bathing), managing their medications and medical treatment, or nutrition and hygiene needs (like laundry, washing dishes, cooking)? 
  • Do they have a service or emotional support animal?

* High school counselors and teachers are resources for connecting with colleges and training programs. Many schools have “College Fairs.”

*This resource describes a typical process to ask for accommodations, and also lists key questions to ask of the Disability Office: How to Request Disability Supports in College

*You can also call postsecondary school admission officers to request brochures and fact sheets about the school and its programs. Schools almost always include information about their programs online.

Source: PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment – Preparing for Postsecondary Education

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

How to Decide on a Post-Secondary Program Worksheet

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Fill in your answers to the questions.

Talk With Each Other

  • What are my abilities?
  • What are my strengths?
  • How does my disability affect my learning and ability to show what I know on tests?
  • What accommodations do I need to be successful?
  • What postsecondary education or training programs do my teachers and school counselors recommend for my areas of interest?

Talk Together About Your Concerns With Student Support Services

  • Where is the school located and does that school setting (urban, suburban, or rural) meet my needs?
  • If I cannot live independently, what is the distance from home?
  • Does the student/instructor ratio ensure I can access office hours with my instructor(s) as needed?

Not all programs provide the same accommodations, and colleges do not make modifications to alter academic requirements.

  1. Does the program offer the accommodations I need to be successful?
  2. Are the housing options accessible for my individual needs?

Do I require someone to assist with:

  1. Self-help (like bathing)?
  2. Managing my medications and medical treatments?
  3. Nutrition and hygiene needs (laundry, washing dishes, cooking?)
  4. Do I have a service animal?

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

College Experience Terms: Non Degree Post-Secondary Transition Programs

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

These are some terms for post-secondary education programs that are unique to those supporting students with intellectual disabilities.

Click on each term for more information.

Transition and postsecondary education program for students with intellectual disability (TPSID)

  • A federally funded model demonstration grant that allows schools to create and/or further develop their program.
  • Programs receiving the TPSID grant are more likely to have accommodations to support students with IDD because they’re literally being paid to create and expand their programs.
  • Students attending schools that are CTP approved can apply federal funding from the Department of Education to pay for non-degree programs.
  • Some programs may use the acronym “IPSE” to indicate they are focused on supporting students with IDD.

Inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE)

Sometimes used to refer to college programs for students with intellectual disability; also referred to as inclusive higher education programs.

Comprehensive transition program (CTP)

Approved by the U.S. Department of Education and eligible for federal student aid.

*If a student has an IEP and they intend to participate in a non-degree college program, their transition goals don’t have to be focused on a major to help them prepare for higher learning.

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

Requesting Accommodations in Post-Secondary Education

The following information is part of the college readiness workbook. You can download this and other parts of this workbook for your personal use. Each document is fillable.

Post-secondary schools each set their own procedures and requirements to request accommodations. Here are some key points and tips on effective ways to request accommodations.

Accessibility is one important way a post-secondary school can show it is inclusive. Over the last few years, many colleges and universities have been highlighting accessibility and the services they offer students with disabilities. This may help a student to decide to apply to a particular school and make it easier to find out how to apply for accommodations at a school they have selected. (Check out the College Readiness Workbook created by PAVE to see resources for post-secondary program selection.)

To request accommodations:

  1. Begin by locating the campus disability services office on the school website. Type “disability” into the search bar.  Often, the first result will be the office that provides accommodation for students with disabilities.

Name of Office:                                                                Phone:      

  1. Call the office to make an appointment and request any forms you can complete beforehand and how to obtain them (such as by mail or downloading from the school website).  Make your appointment well before classes begin.  It may take 6-8 weeks to process your request, so start early to have accommodations in place by the time you need them.
  • Note that some accommodations, such as Braille or interpreter services, may take more time than others to arrange.
  • If you have an IEP, note that transition planning is mandatory beginning at age 16. Parts of a transition plan can include selecting a post-secondary program, deciding which accommodations you will need, and starting the request process on time.

Appointment Date:                                             Time:                           Contact:   

Requirements to document a disability range widely from one post-secondary program to another. It’s important to reach out to disability services to learn their specific requirements, and if possible, talk with other students who have experience with school services. DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism, & Mentoring) Group has lists of student organizations to contact for this type of information.

Schools may ask for documentation from a medical or other therapeutic provider, or disability services may be able to use a student’s current IEP or 504 plan.

3. You will need to submit proof of a disability that impacts activities of daily living, to meet the requirements to provide accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The proof may be a form letter for a medical or therapeutic provider to fill out, or it may be notes from such a provider. It may be your most recent IEP or 504 plan. It must be specific to the condition or conditions for which accommodation is requested.

  • Be aware that a disability which is ‘mitigated’, that is, made less of an impairment by a device, an accommodation, or any other strategy for coping does not change a student’s rights under the ADA or Section 504.
  • The same is true for a condition that ‘comes and goes. For example, bipolar disorder, an autoimmune disorder, a gastrointestinal condition, or similar conditions in which symptoms are present at some times and not at others.
  • From a medical or therapeutic provider, schools often require that documentation must be in writing, must be current within three years, and include the following where appropriate:
    • A description of the student’s disability and how he/she is affected educationally by the presence of the disabling condition.
    • Identification of any tests or assessments administered to the student.
    • Suggestions for educational accommodations that will provide equal access to programs, services, and activities.

4. Documentation submitted to the college should provide clear evidence of need and demonstrate a history of use of the accommodations requested.  While a high school IEP or 504 plan does not “transfer” to the postsecondary program, the disability office may accept these plans as proof of disability or use them as guidance in determining appropriate accommodations.

Collect and check the documentation you need:

  • Most recent Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Most recent 504 plan, Accommodations Plan, or Service Plan
  • Most recent educational evaluations
  • Diagnosis and/or treatment plan
  • Medical or professional service providers notes, including suggested accommodations (colleges may have a form for this)
  • Make copies of the completed request forms for your home file
  • Other

Remember to check the school website for any disability-specific or need-specific documentation requirements.  For example, a student may be required to provide the results of a hearing assessment with expected progression or stability of the hearing loss, when requesting accommodations for a hearing disability.

5. Meet with the disability office staff to request and discuss accommodations.  Complete the How to Decide on a Post-Secondary Program worksheet to help you prepare for this meeting, including organizing your questions and concerns.

Write down any additional questions to help you remember during the meeting.

6. When you receive written notice of the decision regarding your eligibility for accommodations and the list of approved accommodations, make enough copies to share with your instructors and keep a copy with you in class, in the event of a substitute instructor.  Put the original in your home file for safekeeping.

Understand the limits of what the school is providing for assistive technology. For instance, many schools limit the loan of portable screen-readers to specified uses or time frames. Students may have to provide their own equipment or software outside those limits.

It is the student’s responsibility to give the eligibility notice with specific accommodations to each instructor every semester.

7. If accommodations become ineffective or you are not receiving approved accommodations, contact the disability services office immediately for assistance.

8. All accommodations are provided on a case-by-case basis.  If your request for accommodations is denied, contact the disability services office to determine the process for appeal and equitable resolution.

9. Once at college, this resources may help:
So, you’re in college, now what next?
College Readiness Workbook

Additional Resources:

So, you’re in college, now what next?
College Readiness Workbook (contains this article and many other helpful resources)

Sources:

How to Request Disability Supports in College

Tacoma Community College, Tacoma, WA Access Services

Disclaimer: All content is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. When it comes to the law and policy matter, please consult an attorney or advocate on your child’s behalf.

Life After High School: Tools for Transition

Helping a student with disabilities prepare for life after high school requires thoughtful organization and planning. This presentation describes three ways to support this important time of life:

  1. High School and Beyond Plan
  2. IEP Transition Plan
  3. Agency Support

Here are resources referenced in the video:

  • OSPI Model Forms: Scroll down to find and open the IEP Form with Secondary Transition
  • OSPI Graduation Requirements, including links to download the High School and Beyond Plan in various languages
  • DDA: Developmental Disabilities Administration
  • DVR: Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • TVR: Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation, for Native Americans with disabilities
  • DSB: Department of Services for the Blind, for people with blindness or low vision
  • WAC 392-172A-03090, including description of Age of Majority rights that transfer to the student at age 18
  • PAVE article about Supported Decision Making
  • OSPI: The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has a family liaison for special education
  • OEO: The Office of the Educational Ombuds provides online resources and 1:1 support
  • OCR: The Office for Civil Rights can help with questions about equity and access
  • ESD: Nine Education Service Districts; each has a behavioral health navigator, and some are licensed to provide behavioral health services
  • Developmental Disabilities Ombuds
  • PAVE School to Adulthood Toolkit

What’s Next? High School Transition Planning Timeline

High School Transition Planning Timeline

Click to print out this graphic

Description of the above graphic:

What’s Next?

High School Transition Planning

Mapping the Future

Check these milestones to ensure high school paves a pathway for young adult success and achievement!

Ages 13-14
Student begins High School and Beyond Plan in Middle School—a WA State requirement for all students.

Ages 15-16
IEP includes a Transition Plan, aligned with High School and Beyond Plan. Student is a member of the IEP team, which plans a pathway toward a diploma and target graduation date.

Age 16
Get state identification card. Consider Pre-Employment Transition Services from DVR/DSB or School-to-Work planning with DDA.

Ages 17-18
Coursework, IEP, High School and Beyond Plan, DDA/DVR all support student’s life goals and progress toward a diploma.

Age 18
Register to vote! Participate in Commencement and senior year activities, regardless of when diploma is earned.

Ages 18-19
Student may continue education in a high school transition program.

Ages 20-21
Student earns a diploma. May apply for individualized employment support from DVR/TVR/DSB or DDA.

DVR: Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

TVR: Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation

DSB: Department of Services for the Blind

DDA: Developmental Disabilities Administration

Download this graphic to print and keep handy!

Need more information? Consider reading the article School to Adulthood: Transition Planning Toolkit for High School, Life, and Work

How to Navigate School for Youth with Mental Health Concerns

Staff from PAVE’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) program provided a workshop as part of the statewide virtual conference hosted by NAMI Washington October 16, 2021.

This recorded training provides a general overview of student rights in education. Some information is specific to students impacted by mental health conditions.

The formal content begins about four minutes into the video and ends at about 46 minutes.

Here are a few examples of topics addressed:

  • Does my student have the right to be evaluated for special education if they refuse to go to school because of anxiety?
  • What accommodations are reasonable to ask for?
  • What services might be possible for my student who struggles with emotional regulation?
  • Can counseling be a related service?
  • Are there protections for a student because of suicidal thoughts or attempts?
  • What support is available for a student with a disability condition who isn’t prepared for adulthood because high school got interrupted by the pandemic?

Additional information about mental health education and services at school, the overall layout of youth behavioral health in Washington State, and where to find family support is included in a PAVE article: Mental Health Education and Support at School can be Critical.

To seek education, training, and support from the National Alliance on Mental illness, look for a virtual training or information about a local affiliate near you, listed on the NAMI WA website.

One place to access behavioral health services for children and youth anywhere in Washington is through the Seattle Children’s Hospital Mental Health Referral Service: 833-303-5437, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Families and young people can reach out for individualized assistance from PAVE’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) staff at PAVE. Click Get Help or call 800-572-7368.

After you view the video, please take a quick moment to complete our survey. Your feedback is valuable!

Attention Students: Lead your own IEP meetings and take charge of your future

A Brief Overview

  • By the time you are 16 years old, the school is required to invite you to your IEP meetings. You can attend any time, and leading your own meeting is a great way to learn important skills.
  • If you need more help at school or aren’t learning what you need to learn, then your IEP might need some fixing. Your voice matters on the IEP team.
  • A website, I’m Determined.org, provides videos of students describing their goals. You can also print a goal-tracking worksheet from that website.
  • Read on to learn more about the parts of an IEP and how to get more involved in your own education.

Full Article

If you are a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), read this article to find out how you can be a leader on your IEP team. Your future is counting on you!

By the time you are 16 years old, the school is required to invite you to your IEP meetings. From that year on, your school program is matched to your long-term goals. It’s important to plan your time carefully so that every school day gets you closer to where you want to be when you are an adult. 

Learn to be a self-advocate

 An advocate (pronounced ad-vo-cut) is someone who asks for something in a public way. Public schools get money from the government, so they are considered public entities. When you ask the school to provide you with something that you need to succeed, then you are being a self-advocate.

The word advocate can also be an action word (a verb), but then it’s pronounced ad-vo-cate (rhymes with date). You advocate for yourself when you ask for what you need to succeed.

Here’s another way to use this hyphenated word: You can say that you “practice self-advocacy.” Leading your own IEP meeting is a great way to practice self-advocacy and develop important adult skills.

Your Transition Plan focuses on where you want to go

 The part of the IEP that focuses on your adult goals is called a Transition Plan. The Transition Plan is added to the IEP by the school year when you turn 16. The plan includes details about:

  • when you plan to graduate (you can stay in school through age 21 if your IEP goals require more time)
  • what jobs you might choose
  • whether college is part of your plans
  • what lifestyle you imagine for yourself (will you drive, cook, shop, live alone?)
  • how school is getting you ready for all of that

The Transition Plan is all about you and your future. You can start taking charge of your future by going to your IEP meetings. You may want to lead all or part of the meeting, and you have that right.

The law says it’s all about you

Your rights as a student with an IEP are part of a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA says that schools must include family members and students on the IEP team. If you don’t play on the team, you can’t win the game, right? This is more important than a game—it’s Your Life!

The IDEA is a unique law because it says you get what you need in order to access school and learning. Getting an education that is specially designed just for you is called an entitlement. What you are entitled to is called FAPE, which means Free Appropriate Public Education.

You can become a leader on your IEP team by learning more about FAPE and how to talk about what it means to you. Public education is free for all school-age students in the United States, but consider this question: What makes your education appropriate?

Here are some questions to help you think and talk about FAPE:

  • What is it like to have a disability?
  • What about your disability makes school hard?
  • What do you need at school that helps you learn?
  • Are you getting better and better at the skills you need to be good at?
  • Are your teachers helping you see what you do well?

If you are learning important skills at school, and your learning is helping you build on your strengths, then you are probably getting FAPE. If you need more help or aren’t learning the skills that you need to move forward, then your IEP might need some fixing. Keep in mind that the school is responsible to provide you with FAPE. You have the right to ask for FAPE.

Learn what your IEP can do for you

Here’s a starter kit to help you understand what your IEP says and how you can ask for changes. When you go to your IEP meeting, you have the right to ask the teachers and school administrators to help you read and understand your IEP.

These are some important parts of an IEP:

  • Category of Disability: This is on the “cover page” of the IEP document. It lists the type of disability that best describes why you need individualized help at school. You should know this category so you can understand how and why teachers are supposed to help you.
  • The Present Levels of Performance: This is the long section at the beginning of the IEP that describes how you are doing and what the school is helping you work on. The beginning of this section lists what you are good at. Make sure that section is complete so you can be sure the teachers help you build on your strengths.
  • Goals: When you qualified for an IEP, the school did an evaluation. You showed that you needed to learn certain things with instructions designed just for you. To help you learn, the teachers provide Specially Designed Instruction. They keep track of your progress toward specific goals in each area of learning. You can learn what your goals are and help track your progress. A website, I’m Determined.org, provides videos of students describing their goals. You can also print a goal-tracking worksheet from that website.
  • Accommodations: You can ask for what you need to help you learn in all the different classrooms and places where you spend the school day. Do you learn better if you sit in a specific part of the classroom, for example, or if you have a certain type of chair? Do you need to be able to take breaks? Do you do better on tests if you take them in a small, quiet space instead of the regular classroom? Do you need shorter assignments, so you don’t get overwhelmed? Helping your teachers know how to help you is part of your job as an IEP team member.

Get Ready for Your IEP Meeting

You can get ready for your IEP meeting by looking over the IEP document.  You may want to ask a family member or a teacher to help you read through the document. If you don’t understand what’s in your IEP, plan to ask questions at the meeting.

PAVE provides a worksheet to help you prepare for your meeting. It’s called a Student Input Form. You can use this worksheet to make a handout for the meeting or just to start thinking about things you might want to say. If you don’t want to make a handout, you might draw pictures or make a video to share your ideas.

These sentence starters might help you begin:

  • I enjoy…
  • I learn best when…
  • I’m good at…
  • It’s hard for me when…
  • I want more help in these areas…
  • I like school the most when …
  • Teachers are helpful when they…
  • I want to learn more about …
  • It would be great if…

You may want to think about your disability and how it affects your schoolwork. You could work on a sentence or draw a picture to help the teachers understand something that is hard for you. These might be the parts of a sentence that you can personalize:

  • My disability in the area of …
  • makes school difficult because…

Your handout can include a list of what you want to talk about at the meeting. Here are a few ideas, but your options are unlimited:

  • A favorite class, teacher or subject in school?
  • A time during the school day that is hard for you?
  • Your IEP goals?
  • Something that helps you feel comfortable and do well?
  • Something you want to change in your school schedule or program?
  • Graduation requirements and when you plan to graduate?
  • Your High School and Beyond Plan? (see information below)
  • Anything else that’s important to you?

High School and Beyond Plan

Maybe you started talking about what you might do after graduation when you were in middle school. Washington State public schools are required to help all students begin a High School and Beyond Plan by 8th grade. Ask a teacher, a school counselor and/or your parents if you haven’t started one of those: It’s required so you can graduate from high school.

It’s never too soon to think about what you want to do in the future. When you start building an IEP Transition Plan, it’s critical to think and talk through your ideas and how you see yourself moving forward. Here are some starter questions: 

  1. Where am I now? (strengths, interests, abilities)
  2. Where do I want to go? (aspirations, dreams, expectations)
  3. How do I get there? (goals, courses, activities, helpers, accommodations)

Here are some additional questions to help you plan:

Jobs, Trades, & Work

  • What jobs would be a good fit?
  • What training and/or supports will you need?
  • Does your IEP include community work experience?

Education after high school

  • Do your personal goals include college or technical school?
  • What accommodations will you need?
  • Have you contacted Disability Support Services on campus?

Living arrangements

  • Will you live with family, a friend or on your own?
  • How will you cook, clean, shop, & get around town?
  • Does your IEP have goals for Independent living?

Community experiences

  • What will you do for fun?
  • Will you join a club or support group?
  • How will you make friends and keep in touch?

It’s never too soon to plan ahead!

Setting goals and making some plans now will help your school and family help you make sure you’ve got the right class credits, skills training and support to make that shift out of high school easier.

Being a leader at your IEP meeting is a great way to build skills for self-advocacy and self-determination, which is another great two-part word to learn. Self-determination means you make choices to take control of your life. At your IEP meeting, you can practice describing what helps you or what makes your life hard. You get to talk about what you do well and any projects or ideas that you get excited about. In short, you get to design your education so that it supports your plans to design your own adult life.

Here are links to more ideas and tools to help you get involved in your own future planning:

The Center for Change in Transition Services has a toolkit for youth

Youthhood.org also has resources designed just for you

Washington’s 2019 Law Adjusts Graduation Requirements

The Washington State Legislature passed a law in 2019 that changes graduation requirements and may impact students who receive special education services. House Bill (HB) 1599 changes the rules about which tests students must pass in order to graduate and how they can earn a diploma.  

The new law removes the direct link between statewide assessments and graduation requirements by discontinuing the Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) after the graduating class of 2019 and the Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA) after the graduating class of 2021.

Students in the class of 2020 and beyond will need to demonstrate career and college readiness through one of eight graduation pathway options that align with the High School and Beyond Plan, a requirement for all Washington students. The High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP) is expanded by the new law, and districts will be required to provide an electronic HSBP platform available to students beginning in 2020–21.

After-high-school plans are a critical aspect of the Transition Plan written into a student’s individualized Education Program (IEP) by age 16, and the expansion of the HSBP provides for improved alignment between these future-planning tools.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the agency responsible for oversight of all public schools and non-public agencies in Washington State. OSPI maintains a website page with information about graduation requirements. Visit OSPI’s Graduation Requirements page for compete and updated material. The page includes a link to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

This article provides a brief overview of the new requirements, and parents can take this list to an IEP meeting to ask questions and create a plan to ensure graduation success. For more general information about planning for the transition from high school, take a look at a Recorded Webinar on PAVE’s website and/or read an article called Tips to Make a Well-Informed Transition into Life After High School.

Class of 2019, Take Note!

Some students in the Classes of 2014 through 2019 may be eligible to have their assessment graduation requirements waived in English language arts (ELA), math, or both. The Expedited Assessment Appeals Waiver requires that the student show that he/she has the skills and knowledge to meet high school standards and possesses the skills necessary to successfully achieve college or career goals established in the High School and Beyond Plan.

Students may use one of the following to meet the assessment graduation requirements:

  • Graduation standard on Smarter Balanced or WA-AIM (ELA and math)
  • Passing a dual credit course
  • Passing a Bridge to College course
  • ACT or SAT score
  • Advanced Placement score
  • Passing Locally Administered Assessment (COE-Local)
  • Grades Comparison
  • CIA cut-score on Smarter Balanced (“L2 Basic”) (for some students with disabilities)
  • Locally Developed Assessment (LDA) (for some students with disabilities)
  • Off-grade assessment (for some students with disabilities)
  • Expedited Assessment Appeals Waiver

Further information about the waiver is provided in an OSPI Bulletin.

Class of 2020: What will change?

Students will need to demonstrate readiness for post-secondary career or college via one or more pathways. Students in the Class of 2020 will also have access to a waiver. The pathways available to the Class of 2020 are:

  • Graduation standard on Smarter Balanced or WA-AIM (ELA and math)
  • Dual credit
  • Bridge to College
  • C+ in AP, IB, or Cambridge class or achieving certain score on AP, IB, or Cambridge tests
  • ACT or SAT score
  • Also, if completed during the 2018-19 school year: Locally Administered Assessment (COE-Local) This option is not available in 2019-20.

Students must demonstrate skills via a pathway for ELA and math. The above options can be used interchangeably to meet both requirements.

Tips to Make a Well-Informed Transition into Life After High School

Tips to Make a Well-Informed Transition into Life After High School

A Brief Overview

  • Students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) need to have a Transition Plan written into the IEP by the school year when they turn 16, but it’s never too soon to start talking, planning and envisioning the future.
  • Students can stay in school until they are 21—an option for youth who need more time to learn and prepare for adulthood. The IEP team determines a projected graduation date and writes this date into the IEP document.
  • Transition Services in the IEP can support a High School and Beyond Plan, Washington State’s toolkit that is a state requirement for all students to get ready for next steps. Various state agencies serving transition-age youth provide a comprehensive guidebook that describes how to align the HSBP with IEP Transition Planning. Included are career-planning tools and linkages to current information about graduation pathways, which changed in 2019 when the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1599.
  • In Washington, a student takes charge of educational programming at 18 unless other arrangements are designed. Read on for more details.
  • See our companion articles about Student-Led IEP meetings and a new option for pre-employment support through the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

Full Article

Senior year is loaded with projects, planning and a big push to finish requirements and figure out what happens next. For students with special needs, there can be a few extra steps, and it’s never too soon to start thinking and planning for this important transition.

Here are some practical tips and a range of resources to help youth and families make well-informed decisions.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) must include a Transition Plan with individualized Transition Services by the school year in which a student turns 16. Best practice is to start planning for this in seventh or eighth grade, as outlined in the state-required High School and Beyond Plan. If you are starting later than that, don’t worry! Get started now, and your efforts will certainly reap benefits into the future.

When a Transition Plan is added to an IEP, consider that this life-after-high-school planning now focuses the IEP on post-secondary goals and outcomes. Helping the student engage with the IEP team in conversation around these three questions can help direct planning and school supports that will help the student reach the written Transition Plan Goals:  

  1. Where am I now? (strengths, interests, capacities—the Present Levels of Performance in the IEP)
  2. Where do I want to go? (aspirations, dreams, expectations—Transition Plan Goals in the IEP)
  3. How do I get there? (transition services, courses, activities, supports, service linkages, community connections, help to overcome barriers—Annual Goals, Accommodations and other provisions included in the IEP)

The graduation standards for a student eligible for special education are the same as for all other students. In our state, a district’s flexibility in determining how a student fulfills those requirements comes from the Washington Administrative Code (WAC Section 180-51-115). Each school district will have its own policy for implementing these state rules, and you can request a copy of your district’s policy. If there is any confusion, you can encourage the school to consult the district special education office for guidance.

In short, the student’s IEP team determines how the student will meet graduation requirements and how long she/he will stay in school.

A student doesn’t have to graduate at the end of a traditional senior year. A student remains eligible for special education until graduation requirements are met and the student has earned a high school diploma (WAC Section 392-172A-02000). However, a school does not have to hold back credits for a student to remain eligible. The student’s IEP team determines the student’s graduation plan, including the planned graduation date. The student could potentially meet all graduation requirements, but if the IEP team has determined that the student needs further schooling to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), then the student has a right to stay in school to age 21.

In the meantime, a student can participate in commencement ceremonies at the end of a traditional senior year, with peers, under a Washington provision called Kevin’s Law. Students and families should communicate with a special education teacher, case manager or school counselor to ensure that all information about graduation and senior year events is clearly understood and shared. Plan early for needed accommodations at senior year events.

When assessing the Transition Plan in the IEP you can ask these questions:

  • Is the plan age appropriate?
  • Is information provided by more than one source?
  • Do the post-secondary goals consider all areas of life after high school, including employment, further education, independent living and community engagement?
  • Are the goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely?
  • Is a target graduation date included in the IEP?

In Washington State, the Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) has provided a guidance document for all students called the High School and Beyond Plan. You can access that plan and the state’s graduation requirements on OSPI’s Website.

For Special Education students, the plan is not replaced but can be further supported by the plan that includes Transition Services in the IEP. Each school district determines the precise guidelines for students to meet the requirements of the High School and Beyond Plan, and some schools use tools with different names. Becoming familiar with the state-recommended format and then comparing this tool to your school’s requirements and the student’s specific IEP programming is a good way to participate in making sure your student has a robust plan.

A student takes charge of educational planning and programming at the Age of Majority, which is 18 in Washington. According to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC Section 392-172A-03090), “Beginning not later than one year before the student reaches the age of 18, the IEP must include a statement that the student has been informed of the student’s rights under the act, if any, that will transfer to the student on reaching the age of majority.”

Parents have a few options if they wish to continue to have rights to participate in their child’s education:

  1. Guardianship (org)
  2. Power of Attorney (Washington State Legislature)
  3. The student can choose to include “other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student” on the IEP team (WAC Section 392-172A-03095).
  4. Another option is supported decision-making. Informing Families has a helpful tool for designing this voluntary, informal plan.

Families will want to clarify what specific roles and powers parents will retain under the arrangement designed by your family and the school. The special services office at your school may be able to help with this; without legal guardianship or Power of Attorney your student will need to sign consent for you to attend meetings and participate in decision-making.

Regardless of the arrangement, families will want to have some conversations to help a student envision a future and start to see how to get there. A variety of tools are available, including these:

For youth who struggle with behavioral health challenges, transitions can trigger some additional challenges. These resources may provide some helpful tips:

Another resource that might help with planning is the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). Each school is assigned a DVR counselor to assist with pre-employment training. You can look up the name and phone number for your school’s DVR counselor online through a link provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. A new option for youth and families to receive pre-employment counseling is from a program called Foundational Community Supports. Check out PAVE’s companion article about this program.

Good luck with your planning! If you need more specific support unique to your situation, get help from one of our Parent Training and Information (PTI) resource coordinators by filling out a Help Request Form or by calling 1-800-572-7368.

Open Doors for Multicultural Families provides a Transition Resource Guide available in 10 languages

 

Washington State Offers a New Option for Employment and Housing Support

Employment and housing can be critical to good health, and the State of Washington has recognized that more supports are needed in these key areas. In January 2018, the state launched a new program to support individuals with complex care needs because of physical or mental impairments by helping them to find and keep jobs and homes. 

The pilot project provides housing and employment supports to individuals who qualify to receive them. The program doesn’t pay the rent or subsidize a job but rather offers counseling and resource navigation help so that individuals can maintain relationships and stabilize in their work and home circumstances. The program is available to persons 16 and older, who are Medicaid eligible and meet the criteria for the program. This may include students transitioning from high school into adulthood. 

“This program is open to a new population,” says Krystal Baumann, an employment program manager for Region 2 in the northwestern part of the state. Bauman says the new initiative may share referrals with the state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) but is a separate program that offers unique services for individuals who may not qualify for supports through DDA or DVR. These new services cannot duplicate other state and federal programs, so individuals already receiving supports may need to choose which service or agency best suits their needs. 

The pilot program is part of the Healthier Washington Medicaid Transformation led by the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) in conjunction with the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA) and Behavioral Health Administration (BHA). A multi-tiered effort to transform Medicaid services to address social factors that contribute to lifelong health challenges, Healthier Washington includes multiple phases being introduced over a five-year period in what has been called the Medicaid Transformation Demonstration. 

“The purpose of transforming Medicaid is to build an integrated, whole-person health care delivery system,” the HCA states. “The success of this effort will provide Washington State with definitive evidence that better health, better care, and lower costs are possible, now and in the future.” 

The new project that targets housing and employment comprises Foundational Community Supports (FCS)—also called Initiative 3.   “FCS providers can play a critical role in achieving better health, better care and stronger communities,” organizers conclude in an HCA FAQ sheet released in December.  

Supported housing services are designed for people who experience: 

  • Chronic homelessness 
  • Frequent or lengthy institutional contacts 
  • Frequent or lengthy stays in adult residential care 
  • Frequent turn-over of in-home caregivers 
  • PRISM (Predictive Risk Information SysteM) score 1.5 or higher 

Housing supports are ongoing to help people find and maintain stable, independent living. Services include: 

  • Housing assessments 
  • Identifying housing resources 
  • Support for obtaining a lease 
  • Independent living skills development 
  • Crisis management 

Supported employment services target: 

Employment supports can help people find jobs (in competitive, customized or self-employment settings) and gain the skills to succeed. Services include: 

  • Vocational/job-related discovery or assessment 
  • Planning for employment 
  • Job placement, development, coaching 
  • Skill-building for negotiating with prospective employers 

Eligibility is determined using a variety of tools and factors. DSHS recommends that families and individuals reach out with their questions to determine whether they might qualify and benefit from this new program.  

Families and individuals can reach out directly to Amerigroup Washington, the Foundational Community Services Third-Party Administrator by calling 844-451-2828 or emailing FCSTPA@amerigroup.com. 

If you are a customer of Home and Community Services (HCS) or the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), you may qualify for Supported Employment services under FCS. ALTSA has designated Supported Employment staff positioned throughout the state that are assisting with ALTSA specific referrals.  

Region 1 (Eastern Washington) Jim Bischoff: 509-585-8073, BISCHJ@dshs.wa.gov 

Region 2 (Northwest) Krystal Baumann: 360-522-2363, SmithKA1@dshs.wa.gov 

Region 3: (Southwest) Vicki Gilleg: 360-870-4918, GILLEV@dshs.wa.gov 

ALTSA HQ: Mike Corcoran: 360-725-2561, Michael.Corcoran@dshs.wa.gov 

 Amerigroup.com 

Amerigroup – Washington Foundation Community Supports