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Call it Cheating or Call it Accommodating?

August 1, 2011 23 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a recent graduate of Seton Hall University. He started the club Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

I’ve heard this debate to death. Where do we draw the line? Do individuals with disabilities deserve extended time on tests and other accommodations or does it give those individuals an unfair advantage versus the individuals who do not receive these accommodations? The main stream debate seems to have been focused on the SAT/ACT and quite recently involving the GRE/GMAT/LSAT’s as well.  (Imagine someone with autism with these choices!)  Where do I stand on the question? To be honest I’m not a firm believer in the concept of timed tests at all.

The reason this came up for me quite recently was I was having a discussion with a peer about how individuals with autism may not deserve extended time but other learning disabled individuals may  after all some person’s with Aspergers are off the charts intellectually. It should come down to how does your autism affect your writing skills; how does autism affect your ability to read an exam; and how does autism affect your ability to focus on an exam? While many individuals judge autistic individuals within a certain stereotype of it being a communication/social interaction disability the argument was that maybe it should be focused on those who have a stronger deficit in one of those 3 primary areas previously mentioned more apparent for individuals with Learning Disabilities such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyslexia and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In both high school and college I received extended time on tests as an accommodation (in fact, in high School we were given the opportunity to take as long as we wanted/needed with no time limit). In college it was very interesting to see the reaction of my peers when I would tell them that I had extra time that they didn’t. One individual even went to the lines of saying that I was “cheating”. The hope of leveling the playing field is clearly not a belief seen by all.

So where does my opinion lie in this debate? Easy. I think the education system is broken. This is one of the many problems that our education system in theUnited Statesis dealing with. More individuals with disabilities are going to college now than ever before which includes those with autism. Does our patriotic message of “equality all” tarnish with extended time? Yes and no. Autism is a wide spectrum filled with many different types of traits and characteristics that affect us educationally. That means some will deserve this accommodation and some won’t. The problem is when you give someone permission for extended time you are only seeing that they have a disability. All the characteristics mean nothing. You either give it to all who have autism or you don’t.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Are you pro extended time or con for individuals with Autism? Thanks everyone for reading!

This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org or through my Fan Page here.

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