Autism and College-Related Standardized Tests

Autism and College-Related Standardized Tests

I spoke with a relative recently who mentioned that her child, who is a year older than mine, has had trouble with standardized tests.

This typical sixteen-year-old struggled with the “practice” PSAT. After that, the SAT.

What happened with this typical teen?

She planned to retake the SAT or take ACT later in the year. Her mom was confident she’d improve, especially since she took the prep course.

She applied to colleges, but wanted to improve her test scores. She wanted to get into a decent school.

The typical sixteen-year-old struggled with standardized tests.

What about my son?

My son also wants to go to college. He wants to get a job/have a career and he wants to go to college to prepare for that.

Our child does well in school (A/B’s) and understands that it takes more than just grades to get into college.

He has taken California state tests for years now. In California, standardized tests are given to students most years from grade four onward. The tests are usually for math and English subjects only, but some years (seventh or eighth grade, I think), students also take one for the sciences.

How has he done on these tests?

For a child with autism, he has scored fairly well on these tests. He has never scored in the top five percent, but I believe the top twenty-five percent is fair.

For the most part, his scores have improved year after year.

He always went to the testing room to take these exams and was given extra time. There were only a few other students in the room.

How can he prepare?

First, I educated myself on the expectations.

My son and I attended an introduction to the SAT/ACT lecture. The lecture was given by a representative from a test prep company.

The lecture answered some of our questions.

Like what?

He explained that colleges don’t just look at SAT/ACT scores. They take into account grades, sports, extracurricular activities, and volunteering.

Colleges look for a well-rounded individual.

Students should also target schools that have a track that relates to their interests. 

If they want to become a lawyer, they go to a school with strong history or pre-law courses. 

Know the scores

Students should know what scores they need to get in order to get into the schools they want to attend.

Schools have minimum requirements. They are all different.

The questions

The questions on the SAT (more so than the ACT) are written in order to purposely try to trip up students. They’re written to force students to think through a question thoroughly. The theory is that the top college-bound students won’t fall for these “tricks.” Colleges will get them weeded out from the field.

The test is also timed. Many students do not complete all the questions because they didn’t budget their time well.

This is also done purposely.

In addition, we learned that the questions on the ACT are considered “less tricky” and “more straight-forward.”

They also cover more than just English, Writing, and Math (there is a science section).

For this reason, I am encouraged my son to (probably) take the ACT (along with the SAT, most likely).

How can we prepare?

First, we requested accommodations from the college board for his SAT/ACT test taking. We did this right after his first high school IEP (freshman year).

The accommodations are supposed to apply to any/all SAT/ACT’s he takes. He is allowed extra time and a small group setting. He is also allowed to take breaks.

Second, our son is going to take, at least, one of the college prep classes. He may take the online version of the class so he could prepare and practice at home.

I learned at the SAT/ACT lecture that the prep classes are on Saturdays and they are long classes. They may not be suitable for our son.

My son may also take the SAT more than once. Or, he may take the SAT and the ACT.


As I noted above, he may be better suited to the ACT.

As we’ve always done, our family is gathering information and we will attempt to be as well-prepared as possible. My husband and I have also tried to support our son as much as possible. We know he’ll do well, he’s motivated, determined, and intelligent.

We’ll be right there to help him and cheer him on.

Autism and College-Related Standardized Tests

Here’s a great article to assist you in helping your child prepare for an SAT/ACT:


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