Smith, G. W., & Riccomini, P. J. (2013). The effect of a noise reducing test accommodation on elementary students with learning disabilities . Learning Disabilities Research & Practice , 28 (2), 89–95.

Journal Article

Smith, G. W., & Riccomini, P. J. (2013). The effect of a noise reducing test accommodation on elementary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 28(2), 89–95.


Attention problem; Autism; Elementary; Emotional/Behavioral disability; K-12; Learning disabilities; Multiple disabilities; No disability; Noise buffer; Physical disability; Reading; Speech/Language disability; Technological aid; U.S. context




The accommodation investigated was the use of noise-reducing headphones, which had a noise-reduction rating of 25, indicating the amount of reduction in decibels.


Elementary students, in grades 3 through 5, totaling 254 students participated, from a school district in the Southeast (U.S.). Of these, 163 were general education students, 35 had learning disabilities, 39 were identified as "at-risk" for disabilities, and 17 participants had other disabilities (9 had other health impairments, 5 had speech/language disabilities, 2 had multiple disabilities, and 1 had emotional/behavioral disabilities.

Dependent Variable

Reading comprehension was assessed using the Qualitative Reading Inventory-5 (Leslie & Caldwell, 2011), in which study participants were required to read a short narrative passage and respond to eight items in short-answer formats.


Groupwise means for the four participant groups were compared for both the standard administration and accommodated condition. The average scores by group without accommodations were (in descending order): students without disabilities, at-risk students, students with other disabilities, and students with learning disabilities. When provided noise-reducing headphones, students without disabilities had the same average score as a group, at-risk students had a small effect size (improvement), students with other disabilities had a high-moderate effect size, and students with learning disabilities had a moderate effect size. Significance tests showed that students with other disabilities were the only group that scored significantly higher on average when using noise-reduction headphones. Measured another way, the largest proportion (57%) of students with learning disabilities improved their scores when using noise reduction, and the smallest proportion of students without disabilities (nearly 36%) improved their scores with the accommodation. Individual student comparisons showed that some students with disabilities using the headphones increased their scores by up to 60%. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.