Weis, R., Dean, E. L., & Osborne, K. J. (2016). Accommodation decision making for postsecondary students with learning disabilities: Individually tailored or one size fits all ? Journal of Learning Disabilities , 49 (5), 484–498. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219414559648

Journal Article

Weis, R., Dean, E. L., & Osborne, K. J. (2016). Accommodation decision making for postsecondary students with learning disabilities: Individually tailored or one size fits all? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 49(5), 484–498. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219414559648


Attention problem; Autism; Breaks during testing; Calculation device or software (interactive); Dictated response; Dictated response (speech recognition system); Dictionary/glossary; Electronic administration; Electronic administration; Electronic administration; Emotional/Behavioral disability; Extended time; Format; Individual; Learning disabilities; Multiple accommodations; Multiple disabilities; Oral delivery; Oral delivery of directions only; Postsecondary; Simplified language; Speech/Language disability; Spelling checker; Technological aid; Text-to-speech device/software; U.S. context; Visual cues; Word processing (for writing)





The accommodations observed in this descriptive study were reported as part of the study findings, both those used in the classroom and for homework assignments, as well as those used during course examinations; this summary emphasizes details about exam accommodations. Accommodations for exams included additional time, dictionary or thesaurus, breaks for rest, oral delivery, outlining rubrics (for essays), separate room, and technology supports.


The records of 359 postsecondary students with disabilities attending a two-year community college in the Midwest U.S. were examined. The students were documented (by the disability services office) as having various learning disabilities, including in reading, writing, and mathematics (and combinations thereof), or having had them in the past; some students (about 30%) also had been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, speech or language disorder, mood disorders, or anxiety disorders. During participant selection, students with sensory, intellectual, cognitive, or developmental disabilities were excluded. Demographic data including age, gender, and ethnicity were also reported.

Dependent Variable

Deidentified data provided to the researchers included results of achievement and cognitive testing, academic accommodations and/or modifications recommended for the students by clinicians, along with disabilities histories and accommodations provided during past schooling. The purpose of examining independent and dependent variables was to identify accommodations being recommended by clinicians for students with various learning disabilities, as well as to determine whether these recommendations were supported by objective evidence.


Incidence of recommended accommodations and modifications for postsecondary students were reported; those specified for use during course examinations are emphasized in this summary. The most frequent (about 90%) was extended test time, from 50% additional to unlimited additional time. Other accommodations included technology use during exams (70%)—such as calculator (48%), word processor (30%), spellchecker only (24%), speech-to-text (9%), and text-to-speech (8%). About 46% of students had a reader, 27% completed exams in a separate room, and other accommodations were recommended for less than 10% of students—such as dictionary or thesaurus, outlining, and breaks. Researchers also reported recommendations of modified testing (53%)—such as simplified directions, access to notes and formulas, etc.—and modified grading (11%) such as retaking tests with no penalty. Researchers indicated that about 94% of students being recommended for extended test time actually met some type of objective criteria for receiving extended test time. Similarly, about 46% of students recommended for calculator actually met objective criteria for calculator, 70% of students recommended for exam reader met criteria, 30% recommended for word processor met criteria, 26% recommended for separate room met criteria, 24% recommended for spellchecker only met criteria, 9% recommended for speech-to-text met criteria, 8% recommended for text-to-speech met criteria, and 6% recommended for outlining supports met criteria. Evaluations of the appropriateness of individual modifications to testing and grading were also reported. The researchers indicated that objective evidence indicating need for accommodations included history of learning disabilities, current diagnoses, test data, and functional impairment, although these evidentiary sources had differing degrees of accuracy in warranting need for accommodations, and that some recommendations were incomplete or unspecified for test types, content, or conditions. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.