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Autism Spectrum Disorders

To take College Board exams with accommodations, students with autism spectrum disorders must request accommodations from the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD).

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Accommodation requests must be documented. Make sure your documentation meets these seven criteria:

Diagnosis Clearly Stated

Documentation should state the specific disability as diagnosed. The diagnosis should be made by someone with appropriate professional credentials, should be specific, and should reference the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 or DSM-IV).

These DSM-IV diagnoses are acceptable if the student received a well-established diagnosis prior to DSM-5:

  • Autistic disorder
  • Asperger’s disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified

Information Current

Because disabilities change over time, documentation must be up to date. Academic testing should be no more than five years old.

History Presented

Provide relevant educational, developmental, and medical history in support of the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and the functional limitation. Information about the student’s history of receiving school accommodations and current use of accommodations helps the College Board understand the nature and severity of the student’s disability and the need for accommodations. Teacher observations are often helpful as well; they may be recorded on the Teacher Survey Form (.pdf/240KB)

Diagnosis Supported

A medical note is not sufficient evidence to support the need for accommodations. Documentation should demonstrate that a comprehensive assessment was conducted and include the following:

  • A summary of current symptomatology, treatment, and ongoing needs.
  • A narrative summary of evaluation results with clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in the academic setting.
  • Comprehensive cognitive and academic testing (particularly when requesting extended time). Common Diagnostic Tests list frequently used tests.

Functional Limitation Described

Explain how autism spectrum disorder currently impacts the student’s daily functioning and ability to participate in College Board exams. For example, does the student work more slowly than other students? Is the student able to read the test? Write an essay?

Functional limitation can be documented in a variety of ways:

  • Psychoeducational evaluations, including both test scores and narrative.
  • Standardized test scores, including standard and scaled scores: Use national norms to support both the diagnosis and functional limitation.
  • Summary of the student's developmental, educational, and/or medical history.
  • Teacher observations: You may want to use the Teacher Survey Form (.pdf/240KB)

Recommended Accommodations Justified

It’s not enough to say that a student has an autism spectrum disorder; documentation must show why the student needs the requested accommodations. Most College Board exams are written tests administered in a quiet, structured environment. Some students who receive accommodations in school may not require accommodations on College Board tests.

Be sure your rationale for specific accommodations focuses on the following:

  • Connection between the student’s diagnosed disability and the requested accommodations
  • Current needs of the student
  • Reasons requested accommodations are needed on the College Board’s standardized exams

A detailed description of the student’s current symptoms, including their frequency, duration, and intensity, could be helpful.

Students requesting extended time should document difficulty taking timed tasks, include the amount of extended time required or the maximum amount of time the student can be tested in a day, and include current scores on timed and untimed/extended time tests. 

See Accommodation Documentation Guidelines for documentation requirements specific to extended time, computer use, and other typical accommodations.

Professional Credentials Listed

Establish the evaluator’s professional credentials. Evaluators must be authorized by the state in which they practice to administer the necessary tests and to diagnose autism spectrum disorder.

Related Topics

Who Is Eligible?

Learn how eligibility for accommodations on College Board exams is determined.

Find Out Who’s Eligible

Requesting Approval

If you’re new to SSD, start here for the big picture on getting accommodations on College Board exams.

Get an Overview