NAPLAN is almost a dirty word in many special needs groups. It’s the one topic (other than vaccination) that’s bound to get people talking and heart rates soaring.
NAPLAN stands for National Assessment Program Literacy And Numeracy. It’s a national, standardised test that’s undertaken on the same day, and at the same time, in every school across Australia.
Seems innocent enough? Why the angst?
Well, NAPLAN is used for many purposes, not just for its core purpose. Which is to measure and track individual student progress and achievement.
Unfortunately, NAPLAN scores are used to measure the success of schools and formulate funding too. Which means that it’s sometimes in a school’s interest to encourage special needs students not to take part.
I completely disagree with this. All students, regardless of ability, diagnosis or label, should have the right to take part. SHOULD THEY CHOOSE TO.
Every parent knows their child best. There will be times when it’s not in the student’s interest to take part in NAPLAN. That’s fine. Sometimes it really is best to not put your child through the process.
What’s not fine, however, is when this decision is taken away from the family. It should be the family’s decision whether to exclude their child from testing. Not the school’s.
It’s especially troubling, if this decision is made without a detailed discussion of the disability adjustments that can be provided to assist special needs students to take part in testing.
Disability Adjustments You May Be Able to Access For NAPLAN
My son has been able to access the following disability adjustments in his last two NAPLAN testing years. These adjustments have allowed him to participate on the same level as his peers.
- Extra time
- Rest breaks
- Electronic testing
- Separate supervision
These adjustments mirror supports he receives in the classroom on a daily basis. Providing access to these during the NAPLAN tests allows him to participate in a fair and equitable manner.
There are a list of all the supports that can be applied for, plus scenarios illustrating how they are used, on the ACARA NAP website. Other supports available include, reading, scribing, Braille, large print, computer assistive technology, oral signed support, coloured overlays and a NAPLAN support person.
It’s important to remember that specific supports for NAPLAN can only be applied for if they are already used in the classroom to assist your child. Principals sign off on all requests and you, as a parent, should be asked to sign the request too. Written confirmation of approved disability adjustments will be provided by ACARA, prior to the test date.
I’ll quickly explain how these adjustments help my son, with his 3 separate disability diagnoses.
My son’s autism means it takes him more time to process and digest information. In a timed testing environment, this puts him at a disadvantage. He also requires extra time to take in information due to his vision impairment, which means it can take him a little longer to read text. Allowing him an additional 5 minutes gives him a better chance to complete the test and work through these challenges.
Visual fatigue can occur when my son reads and concentrates on visual information for any more than 30 minutes. He tires more easily than his peers and struggles to take in information after this time. Rest breaks are incorporated into the classroom to help him deal with this already. Providing this support during testing gives him the necessary help he needs to complete the test to the best of his ability.
My son has been given a laptop from the Department of Education to complete his everyday work at school. This has been provided, primarily, for his vision needs. However, it also assists with his autism by eliminating the need for handwriting (a task that’s slow and laborious for him, due to his underdeveloped fine motor skills). Accessing NAPLAN in an electronic format allows him to complete the test with the everyday supports he requires.
Undertaking testing in a noisy hall with lots of other students is not ideal for my son. He is easily distracted and could, more importantly, distract other students if he becomes frustrated, stressed or upset during the test. It’s in his interest (as well as everyone else’s) for him to be supervised in a separate area. This allows him to complete the test electronically (most students complete the test via paper) and gives everyone the best chance of success in the test.
The key to accessing disability adjustments for NAPLAN testing is to work with your school to identify supports that are provided everyday in the classroom. Even if they’re not listed in your child’s IEP/PLP (although this is a great opportunity to include them now!).
For instance, your child might be given a sensory/rest break every hour, to help keep them on task. In this case, there may be grounds to apply for rest breaks for NAPLAN. Or your child is routinely given extra time in class to complete required tasks. This might also qualify them to be given extra time to complete the testing too.
NAPLAN Checklist for Parents
– Talk to your school about NAPLAN. If you want your child to take part, let the school know as early as possible.
– If YOU feel it’s not in your child’s interests to sit the test, apply to be excluded from testing.
– If your school suggests exclusion, ask for more information to ensure it’s the right decision for everyone.
– Ask your teacher about supports they already provide in the classroom for your child (ensure they’re listed in their IEP too).
– Enquire about disability adjustment provisions for NAPLAN. See what you can apply for to best support your child during testing.
– Make sure you sign off on all requested adjustments.
– Await formal written notification of the approved adjustments (issued by ACARA prior to the test date).
If you still want to find out more, check out my recent video below:
Are you a NAPLAN parent this year? What has you experience been so far?
Would you like more support as a special needs parent?
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This actually helps in relation to my son’s dyslexia as well.
I excluded my son from NAPLAN last year because it doesn’t adequately reflect his knowledge and abilities, All it does is highlights he is unable to read at the same level as his classmates which we know already.
I wrote about it here: http://www.deepfriedfruit.com.au/2016/05/naplan-and-why-its-no-go-zone-for-us.html
I do support all of the extras you write about when you, the parent, has the desire for the child to take part. Of course it must be a decision by the parents and I am embarrassed that some schools would not even ‘ask’ parents about their wish for their children. In one of my schools, we would speak to some families where we felt the child’s emotional health would not be up to the test process nor the intellectual capacity but this was in a special education unit back then. I do think schools need to factor in the supervision and the place for students like your son (and others) where the test will need a teacher to supervise. Good post!! Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 12/52. Next week: Three Month Review 2017
Special provisions are so important for any kind of exam/test. You’ve got some great tips there and it’s things we advocate for in letters for those with mental health, special needs or LDs.
I still feel like the Naplan is a joke and just recently found out that apparently Year 9s will need a Band 8 in order to get their ATARs in Year 12. They will be allowed to re-sit literacy and numeracy tests in 10 and 11 but honestly, I don’t think this system takes into account kids with LDs or other special needs. Gah!
We’ve only been through NAPLAN once so far, and thankfully no special considerations were required. I know very few teachers who think NAPLAN is a good thing – partly because it wastes their time in an already crowded curriculum. But, if we must NAPLAN at all, then it certainly should be available to all students who wish to participate – with all the support they need. This post is going to be so helpful for a lot of families.
NAPLAN seems like such a huge stress for everyone involved. My niece and nephew are due to sit it this year (or maybe they already have? I haven’t kept up with it) and my SIL has been worried about it since last year.
I am dreading the stress of NAPLAN testing, but my son is pretty easygoing so I think he’ll be alright, it’s probably just me that will have the anxiety, haha 🙂
I am glad special needs kids have the option of electronic testing. It is a real kick in the guts for a special needs parent to be told that your child can have the day off when testing is taking place. A real reality check and not a good one.
My son was the opposite with his drivers licence test, instead of the computer test he answered questions orally to the tester as he was able to answer more freely and the computer test made him anxious as he was having difficulty in processing the information on the screen.