Thompson, T., Coleman, J. M., Riley, K., Snider, L. A., Howard, L. J., Sansone, S. M., & Hessl, D. (2018). Standardized assessment accommodations for individuals with intellectual disability . Contemporary School Psychology , 22 (4), 443–457.

Journal Article

Thompson, T., Coleman, J. M., Riley, K., Snider, L. A., Howard, L. J., Sansone, S. M., & Hessl, D. (2018). Standardized assessment accommodations for individuals with intellectual disability. Contemporary School Psychology, 22(4), 443–457.


Accommodation/s not specified; Autism; Elementary; High school; Intellectual disabilities; Middle school; Preschool; U.S. context




This expository review of literature was to share best practices and useful strategies surrounding assessments for students with intellectual disabilities. The authors proposed a model for assessment for students with intellectual disabilities, and accommodations were discussed broadly as a crucial component, along with examples [more detail in Findings section].


The researchers evaluated best practices found in a review of available research literature, professional standards, legal precedence, and field research to construct their proposed model for assessment. Students with intellectual disabilities included those with Fragile X Syndrome, Down Syndrome, and co-occurring Autism Spectrum Disorder. The sources for the documents and artifacts appeared to apply predominantly to the U.S. elementary and secondary school system.

Dependent Variable

In the proposed model of assessment, planning, administration, evaluation, and reporting (in that order), were detailed and included as stages to increase validity for various standardized assessments for students with intellectual disabilities.


In light of the limited research on administrative procedures that have achieved valid assessment results with students with intellectual disabilities, this report proposed an iterative model for assessment. This model included a four-stage cycle of planning, administration, evaluation, and reporting. These stages effectively summarized and operationalized best practices shared in the literature, creating a new model to fill gaps in the research. Accommodations were described by "domain," with several examples designed to address the needs of students with intellectual disabilities: (a) behavioral: "first/then" board giving visual cues, frequent breaks related to attention span and stamina, reinforcement of engagement or effort; (b) communication: assistive technology, break request cards, extended and wait time, pointing or other gestures instead of verbal responses, repeating instructions, simplified instructions with key phrases; (c) relational: digital assessment to decrease intensity of in-person interactions, initial play activity before assessment, rapport-building time in advance such as home visit prior to assessment, transitional object permission for anxiety management; (d) sensory: fidget toys, sensory integration techniques, substitution of test tasks if highly stimulating of senses (noisy or visually intensive); (e) environmental: testing over multiple days, extended or unlimited time, familiar setting for assessment, low stimulation or low sensory setting for testing or for breaks, testing over multiple days; (f) motor: "allow examinee to provide examiner with verbal directions for item manipulation if he or she is unable to execute action with precision" (p. 449), "touch/scan response, where the examiner scans items with finger, and examinee indicates his or her choice with verbal or nonverbal signals" (p. 449).