Sunday, February 01, 2015

Austin and the ACT

In this post, I'm going to try to explain my reasoning for having Austin take a college entrance test despite the fact that he is not really college bound. I will also address my reasons for not pursuing disability accommodations for Austin for the SAT or ACT. (For the record, he is taking the ACT this coming Saturday. I am not having him take the SAT at all, for reasons that I will address as well).

Reason #1 - Georgia homechool laws say he needs to be tested this year. 

The state of Georgia requires testing at the end of 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th grades.  So he has to take a standardized test. He can take the ITBS (which he probably will in April) to satisfy this requirement. Or the SAT. I chose not to do the SAT, though, based on his PSAT scores and some discussions with friends who teach high schoolers with ASDs. Apparently kids with ASD do better on the ACT. So ultimately I decided to have him take a traditional college entrance test even though he won't do well enough on the test to get into college. And even if he did get in, he really is not capable of college level work at this point in his life.

So what's the point?! That brings me to the next reason.

Reason #2 - Because everyone else is doing it.

I'm not sure how it works in other states, but in Georgia - and especially in the area where we live - the assumption is that all kids will go to college. Period. End of the discussion. Even the kids with high functioning autism - gotta get them ready for college/into college. College. College. College.

So taking the SAT is something everyone that Austin knows is doing, or has already done. He took the PSAT last year in 11th grade because everyone else was doing it - and it was great for him! He could talk about it with his friends on Facebook. They all had the PSAT in common.

Reason #3 - Because it's better to have a low score than no score.

Ok, this is a reason that I'm not altogether sold on but I am going with it because it was given to me by experienced homeschool moms that have gone before me. I'll have to get back to you on this one.

So that's why he's taking this test at all.

Now on to the disability accommodations. There are a number of accommodations you can apply for when it comes to these tests. You can find the College Board accommodations for the SAT and the ACT accommodations by clicking on those links. The most appropriate accommodation for Austin would be extra or extended breaks. However, this would just extend an already stressful day for him. And that is the biggest factor in this test. The stress. Many kids with autism could benefit from extra time or a quiet place to test. Austin does not need those accommodations to level the playing field.

The bottom line is that all the time in the world and all the breaks in the world are not going to get Austin any closer to the right answers. He is just not there cognitively. There is nothing wrong with that. On his standard IQ tests, he scores in the borderline intellectually disabled area. While I believe this number is low, when he was last tested and the tester showed me examples of how he thinks, you can definitely tell that he is not a typical learner (but unfortunately he also does not have any traditional LDs aside from the not-so-helpful "Cognitive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified").

My goal has always been to get him as far along as he can go. And I have done that. He is actually doing better academically this year than I thought he would - with the exception of a massive case of Senior-itis striking him! LOL So perhaps he will want to go to college or technical school (we have no traditional community colleges in Georgia - all colleges, universities, and technical schools require an ACT/SAT score to get in) one day and could get in under more lenient 'adult learner' requirements. With an additional 4-5 years of brain development, this really might be a possibility. I wish he would allow me to continue to homeschool him through age 21 like kids with disabilities are entitled to do, but he won't. I remember reading somewhere that kids with high-functioning autism usually function around 75% of their chronological age. That puts Austin around age 14 right now - and he's grasping Algebra concepts much better this year than he did when he was chronologically 14, so that makes sense.

I wish that we had traditional community college in our area where Austin could be admitted without regard to his test scores and just take one class at a time. Or even 2 classes. He works so hard and he would do the very best he could - and he could certainly use accommodations for that. Unfortunately, that is not an option here. Music school is still an option he wishes to pursue, but it is $24,000 for a 2 year certificate program that does not lead to a degree and none of the course work will transfer to another university or college and I do not believe it's worth it for him to take on that much debt for such a program. We are still planning to tour the campus this spring, and he currently has $1000 saved up towards his tuition, but it's not a path I'm completely sold on right now.

I arrive here at the end of my longest blog post in months and wonder if any of this makes any sense! LOL I hate talking about this sort of thing in such a public forum. I do not want to make Austin look bad or to embarrass him. He really is an amazing young man! He has been working so hard for all of these years, doing the very best he can. And he has the unfortunate luck of being my homeschool guinea pig! But I want to share all of this journey in case anyone else is out there and starting out wondering if they can really homeschool a child with ASD or seizures or cognitive disorders. You can! But it's not going to look like everyone else's homeschooling - and certainly it's not going to look like the public or private schools - and that can be very unnerving. Trust me, I know!

I will close this post now... if something doesn't make sense, or if I can elaborate on any of my reasons, please post a comment and let me know!