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Testing Accommodations and Spelling Tests

This information is part of an online guide, Resources for Mainstream Programs

Deaf and hard of hearing students may benefit from a variety of accommodations and modifications. These are usually discussed as part of a student's IEP. A more detailed explanation of accommodations and modifications may be found in the Clerc Center's Info to Go resource on supplementary aids and services.

This page provides a sampling of possible accommodations for testing.

Accommodations for Testing

  • When a test addresses attaining concepts rather than literacy skills, allow the deaf or hard of hearing student to ask the teacher for clarification of test questions he or she does not understand or to have the written test question interpreted in sign language to assure the question is understood.
  •  For tests (standardized and informal) that may specify only a single presentation of a question be read aloud by the teacher while a child reads along with the question, consider repeating the question a second time for the deaf student after he or she has had time to look at the item (as it is not possible to follow along in the text simultaneously with the presentation of the question).
  • Provide extended time for those students needing it to adequately read and respond in writing to the test items. Since many deaf individuals learn English as their second language, they may take longer to read English print or to formulate their thoughts into written English.
  • For tests measuring concept attainment rather than writing skills, determine just how much accommodation to allow in not penalizing a student for writing errors when concept attainment is demonstrated.
  • Use performance-based assessment such as portfolios requiring written work, artwork, videos, or computer slide shows to allow for a broad look at an individual's understanding of a particular unit or concept.
  • If an accommodation is being made to have a standardized test administered via sign language, provide some time to practice using this strategy with the deaf student before the actual test. 

Spelling Tests

Spelling tests can be a challenge for both children who use sign language and those who depend on listening. For students who use sign language, there are many words without formal signs that require fingerspelling (which gives away the spelling of the word). For students who depend on listening during a test, there are some words that are difficult to hear and understand, thus causing a problem. Below are a few strategies to use so that you can include these students fairly in this testing process:

  • For signing students: Make a videotape for the deaf or hard of hearing student using the sign he or she will use for each spelling word with the fingerspelling of the word shown on the tape and an accompanying list of the printed words. The tape can then be sent home for the student to study for the test. For example, if there is a spelling test on names of flowers, generate a sign for daisy, violet, pansy, etc., to be used for the test.
  • For students dependent on listening: Before the test, have the child practice listening for the words to be tested to ensure that he or she can hear and discriminate between the words. For words that are difficult to discriminate via hearing, consider establishing a visual cue or code related to those spelling words to prompt that word during a spelling test. For example, if the words are "display" and "displace," use a specific gesture to cue each of these words during the test.