#095 Navigating ACT & SAT Accommodations: How to Get Approved & Avoid Common Mistakes with Wendy Raynor Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins  01:05

Navigating the world of AC T and LSAT tests can feel like a roller coaster, especially when your teen has an IEP or 504 in place. Can they get extra time? What about other accommodations? Wendy Reiner is our go to guru on testing accommodations and serves as the national test prep Association’s accommodations liaison. She has guided hundreds of families like yours to figure out this maze and boost those test scores. Keep listening as windy breaks down, who gets a thumbs up for accommodations and how to sail through the process smoothly. I am Lisa Mark Robbins. And I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. Wendy, welcome to the show.


Wendy Raynor  02:01

Hi, thanks for having me.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:03

Well, you were a no brainer on this topic. I have watched you for years inside the national test prep Association, online and you seem to always have the answer for any question a test prep provider or a parent throws at you. Your breadth of knowledge is amazing.


Wendy Raynor  02:26

Well, thank you very much. And if I don’t, I will certainly try to find the answer. So actually,


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:30

I’ve seen that in action too. Because I mean, the process changes sometimes. There are things that I’ve seen in the few years that I’ve known you where it’s like, well, that’s no, but you are connected well enough that you’re able to get us those answers. So


Wendy Raynor  02:48

So yes, usually I can thanks. Yeah.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:50

Well, let’s dive in. I mean, I know that there’s, there’s some students for whom this is probably going to be relatively smooth sailing, when they you know, they want accommodations is is sort of obvious, you can look at a situation like Well, yeah, on that one. And there are quite a few that are sticky wickets. And they may or may not get approved. So what they do in the process and how to navigate that becomes even more important, right?


Wendy Raynor  03:20

Absolutely. So I think the easiest one to talk about are the no brainers. And really, the no brainers are, if your child has consistently been on a 504 IEP, whether it’s in public school or private school, a lot of parents don’t understand that private schools and give Bibeau course and IEP s or you can have a 504 IEP issued by the school district. So if you’re a homeschool, or you can go to the district and ask them to provide that.


Lisa Marker Robbins  03:54

I think that that’s a common misconception. And I think I have right here at the top because we do have a lot of kids, families whose students are in private schools, or our home schools that our podcast listeners are with me and my college major and career course. And it becomes more complicated. So let’s go back. So you’re you have a is it a right? Is it a legal right?


Wendy Raynor  04:20

It is a legal rights. So families that have diagnosed or children that had diagnosed disabilities, whether it’s learning or otherwise are protected under Section 504. And so as soon as you have what we call a DSM code, and that’s the book that has all of the diagnosis for any kind of LD dyslexia, although now they call it a nonspecific impairment having to do with reading, but any of those things, qualifies you to be reviewed under Section 504 C or a protected class, however, to receive a 504 accommodations School you need to request it from your district, from the teachers and start receiving accommodations. For example, if you have a student that has ADHD, but it’s a medicated, you might not need accommodations. So although there are a protected class, under Section 504, the accommodations piece is going to be missing. So that’s where we run into the sticky wicket situation where just because your student has an ADHD diagnosis, if they’re not receiving accommodations, and you can’t show a need for accommodation, that’s not going to guarantee you accommodations on a standardized test on SATs.


Lisa Marker Robbins  05:47

Okay, so this is going to take us down the road where you’re going to add a lot of value. I bet I had a quick question on this. So we’ve got, you know, listeners who are listening, going like, oh, my gosh, we’re, you know, we’re submitting applications really soon. And they’re they’ve got seniors, we also have listeners who are the very proactive parent type, we embrace all these different listeners at different stages of the college bound journey. If you were to like, give advice to a listener who has maybe their oldest as a senior, but they’ve got younger kids coming up, or they’re that proactive parent who’s listening and gathering information with their, with their freshman or their sophomore in mind or their will that right on time category of they’ve got a junior, like, what would your advice be? As far as particularly if they’re a homeschool student? Or a private school student? Like at what age? Would you say like, Hey, parents be proactive? If your student is identified, get that 504 IEP in place now, like, what kind of that timeline?


Wendy Raynor  06:57

Well, so I think it’s also important, you don’t have to have a 504 IEP in order to receive accommodations. So don’t feel like as a parent, you need to race out and go to your districts, special ed, and get a mama bear all over that, please don’t do that. You can get those, you can still get the accommodations. But what the College Board and the AC T are looking for when you’re doing that is they’re still looking for the same kind of benchmarks that you would need to show the district to receive a 504 IEP. So what I mean by that we need to show a history of struggle, I that’s the easiest way for us to explain it. So starting to document the interventions that you as a family are giving your child especially in a homeschool situation, right? There are reasons why you are homeschooling your child, they weren’t getting the support that they needed in school, or, you know, there’s a plethora of reasons. So you need to document that document. Are they going to a language beach therapist, have they had a reading intervention, Document Document Document for private school? Are the teachers giving accommodations unofficially, and class it happens all the time. So start getting letters from the teachers or making sure that the notes from your teacher meetings, you’re saving them because all of that documentation is showing a history of struggle, even if it’s not officially notated on a 504 IEP or from a private school perspective, I use the general term learning plan. So and I’m working with one right now who private school doesn’t believe in learning plans. And so


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:55

they’re like, what do you what do you do with that? Because I’ve also found I’ve said over the years, just like teachers out of the kindness of their heart, are some teachers are bending over backwards to say like, Hey, Oh, that’s okay. You didn’t finish the task, take some extra time, or breaking it up or putting them into a small room to take it free of distractions, out of the goodness of their heart, there’s no 504 IEP, and in the parent has all the warm fuzzies for that teacher. But if it’s not documented, that could be a problem, right?


Wendy Raynor  09:31

Well, if you have documentation, if the teacher writes a letter of support, you can use that in your application towards accommodations on the College Board, an AC T, the AC T and in particular, absolutely, not only for home school, because homeschool used to be the big one, that that documentation was really really important. But they will accept any of that documentation to support any application.


Lisa Marker Robbins  09:57

So how those what are the privates? Cool homeschool, okay, so all of that heap, like emails going back and forth or asking a teacher for an official letter, attend a parent teacher conferences, like you’re building up a paper


Wendy Raynor  10:14

trail. Exactly. And so that really can start. Whenever, you know, definitely freshman year, if you have the capability of it, if you’re listening to this with a middle schooler, then absolutely start really narrowing down that paper trail in high school. But really don’t worry, if you’re a write, you know, and half a dozen to a rising junior year. All is not lost it still about, you know, I guarantee at some point your child received an unofficial accommodation from certain teachers, go back and ask those teachers for a letter, kind of just declaring now please avoid our teachers love to give shining examples of our students and what a wonderful student they are and how they’re in a student and everything that’s irrelevant. In this, please don’t include that. Stick with the facts. I gave this accommodation, I allowed them extra time on assignment. I, you know, would never ask them, I would change the due date because they had a major final the same day. Stick to the facts and the relevant facts about what accommodations were given and thought that flattery.


Lisa Marker Robbins  11:30

You know, I, I agree and, and parents are gonna have to say that to the teachers. I remember my oldest two, he’s 25 Now, and he was one of those students like, gifted, getting really good grades, taking rigorous courses. And he was getting extra time. And this is before AC T made it I mean, he graduated high school in 2016. So this is before they made it as easy for the kids who are getting accommodations to get those you still had to apply and jump through all the hoops. I even wrote letters for teachers and said, Here’s what we need, I wrote it up. And then you can either sign it, or you can edit it. And I was very specific with them. And that seemed to help that because they’re not experts at this. They need your help.


Wendy Raynor  12:19

Absolutely. And you mentioned something and I think they’re it’s really important to highlight it. The AC T went through a major change during COVID, the former director of the accommodations department was during New from their possession and a new VP of accommodations was brought in, in 2020 Does summer right when Janet also got promoted to CEO. So a lot of Lyons a lot of the information that you’re carrying from counselors is old information about the AC t, it is not the current guard. Everything has changed over the last three years. And so it’s really, really important for parents to understand that. So for instance, I’m sure you saw online, there was a comment yesterday about a counselor telling a parent that accommodations needed to be in place for a while might that is not true. You just need to document a history of struggle and what led to accommodations because let’s face it, you as a parent, your child might have gotten an ADHD diagnosis a month ago, but you brought it up to the pediatrician seven years ago, and you’ve been struggling with it, and doing all kinds of interventions before getting the formal diagnosis and finally going down that route. So that seven years is a history of struggle. But Lee is if you take nothing away from today other than this, everything started to change in 2020. And if your counselors referencing their had years of experience, that’s great. But it’s either everything has changed.


Lisa Marker Robbins  14:10

Well, and so how would you Is there a concise way to say like, because everything you and I know that everything changed for the for the positive, it became an easier road I mean, that’s why back in 2014 I’m like why I’m putting this you know request in with oh, you know, both guns blazing, got a doctor’s letter got because I felt all of this pressure to have evidence that’s no longer required. If you’re getting accommodations on a 504 IP, can you just kind of sum up what that looks like. And then let’s talk more about like the sticky wicket.


Wendy Raynor  14:46

Yeah. So I think in general what happened is they very much standardized process before there was some loosey goosey kinds of things going on. And it wasn’t if you check this box, you’re going to receive the accommodations. And so you did find that a lot of times it was more difficult to get accommodations on the AC T rather than the SATs, the new VP of accommodations was not new anymore. But the VP of accommodations is an attorney and she is specifically nada attorney ADA train determine, though she is going to follow the rules as far as what is in the loss. So if you are questioning what exactly they’re looking for, look at Section 504. Look at the ideas act, that the documentation that would be required or to receive that at your at school board level is the document is kind of the level of documentation that the ATT is looking for. So it is not a punitive process. They do not hate teenagers, I promise you that. I know it feels like that. But it’s just, they want to help. But they’re trying to make it that it is consistent from student to student just do and that’s the biggest change.


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:06

It’s the same thing with college admissions officers and like, you all feel like they’re against kids. And then like they’re not they actually love teenagers, or they would not be working in these jobs. But when you’re, you know, when you’re uninformed, or you don’t know how the system works, it can feel like for admissions for testing that the cards are stacked against you. But you know, and this is probably a perfect time before we move on to what is the accommodation process application process look like? To say that, if you’re armed with good information, this is you can navigate this and you have a book coming out this video November, in which I did want a 23 Because we’re nearly 100 episodes and now so we’re gonna keep that going. So and the name of your book is accommodation simplified available on Amazon, right?


Wendy Raynor  17:02

Correct. Send it’s yeah, it’s written for parents. And it really it’s a short, very clear guide of what it takes to get accommodations, the steps in the process. The differences between the tests, the different accommodations that are available, really just laid out from a parent perspective to try to simplify it as much as humanly possible for you to really take the teeth out of it, and the scary, the scary part of it and really kind of just get everybody on the same page.


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:35

So well, we’ll link to it in the show notes. And so it really is going to be a deeper dive more comprehensive than what we can just kind of get on the surface today. So it is so funny. I didn’t even know you got a book coming out when I wanted you to come on. I’m like, Oh, well, that perfect timing. Okay, so we were trying to simplify what let’s talk about the application process to get the combination, and what are some of the common mistakes that you see families making in this process.


Wendy Raynor  18:07

So let’s, in general, let me break out a little bit between the SATs and AC T we’ll talk about the PSAT PSAT AP kind of bucket first, most of the time you as a parent won’t even know that accommodations have been applied for because they just will do if your kid is on a 504 Apu or they’re on a learning plan. The school bulk doesn’t before the your student takes their first PSAT or anything.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:36

Now you don’t even know you get the letter your high school do that. But you would probably have to take care of that. If you’re a home school student. What about private is


Wendy Raynor  18:44

yesterday at its private school student for College Board, they’re going to do it for you as well. If they’re offering the PSAT or offering an AP that you’re going to take, they’re going to go ahead and do it for you just because they will do it all at one time. So that’s relatively easy. The problems that you get into are definitely if you want more accommodations, so what they’re asking for, but for the most part, it’s pretty cut and dry. And the AC T is quite a bit duck, right. So the biggest thing that parents need to understand is that you need to register for the test. First, before the accommodation process begins. you’re registering your student for that test is what kicks everything off. Now, the registration for the school year for AC T opens in July every year, which makes the September test a little tricky if that’s going to be their first exam. So the one recommendation I make is if you’re looking at September being your first exam, that you bite the bullet you register for any open test that’s available. So that You can kick start the application process for accommodations. And then you will spend about $40, which I’m sorry to go. And then once registration opens in July, you then switch to the September hast otherwise, deadlines get all tricky.


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:18

So, if I had a sophomore is on an IEP and is going to be taking the AC t not the LSAT, I would register for like the June or July, AC T, kick off the accommodations request. And then for a fee, which is less than a test registration, and by the way, you can just like no show on a test date as well. But you’re gonna pay more money in the end, then you can pay a fee to say, oh, sorry, I want to move my July AC T to September. But that allows you to have that that runway, how long? How many month runway? Do you feel like is appropriate for AC T accommodations? So


Wendy Raynor  21:02

the the actual deadline for accommodations is officially the late registration deadline for the test. So for say the October What 20 Night test, the application for accommodations deadline was October 6. Now, we don’t want to do that. Because that’s also the deadline for any appeals you don’t like their decision. So really the answer that question is that you want to apply as far in advance this as possible. So I have families right now who are registered for the April test. And it is currently like number one. Yeah, October. And you know, so there’s plenty of leeway if there are any problems and it’s, it doesn’t hurt anything.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:51

So will that problem be


Wendy Raynor  21:53

at problem would be so I’m handling one right now a problem is and why we have a when we talk about our big kind of roadblocks. The biggest roadblock that I encounter in the biggest reason for denial is that in public school, if your child has been on a 504 IEP for a long time, a lot of times what the counselor does is just attaches the date from your last 504 meeting. And not the entire file. And so there’s no there’s not a diagnosis in that updated, there’s no background information, there’s nothing. And that doesn’t show the history of struggle, which is the number one piece of information that you need to show in order to secure accommodation. So usually, that is our biggest reason for denial. And that’s the biggest piece that you’re going to have to deal with. Or on private school side, it’s that you need to show that your teachers were giving accommodations before the learning plan was in place, you need those letters.


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:57

So it’s, it’s like you’ll, once you get that Bible four document, you’re probably fine. But you need the extra time to clean up the error that was made. And by that, so there is an appeal, or a process in place where you can fix any of these mistakes, but it would require time and a longer runway.


Wendy Raynor  23:18

Exactly, exactly. So it’s definitely we want to we want to stay on top of it. The current turnaround time for the AC T to review and get their decision about accommodations and appeals is eight to 10 working days, it’s very, very short. So you know even if you’re a month out, that still gives plenty of time to give your to have an appeal go on. So it’s pretty rapid no longer is that like the two months, you know that they kind of quote on their website, they’ve really really shorten that.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:52

So if there’s there’s a kid that it’s not as clear cut have a case that they they are you have concerns or is the history of struggle, but there’s not formal accommodations already in place. What would like what should they gather? Obviously, we said letters, do doctor’s note letters help as well? Yes. Yeah. Will their process be longer?


Wendy Raynor  24:21

Not necessarily, if you do the legwork up front, and you did as I advised at the beginning, which is really kind of continuously collect that information as you go along. Then a lot of times what’s needed like I had a meeting with a family yesterday, and they’ve been denied about three times. So we’re gonna I’m finally stepping in as a consultant to help and really what I’m seeing is what’s missing? Is the narrative linking all of those documents together. Why does one relate to the other to relate to the other and so that’s what we’re working on building at because the counselor is just throwing all the documents and it’s To the email and shooting them over. And you can know some of those reports, as you guys know, there, they can be 81 Pages for Pete’s sake, you know, if you’re not helping the ACC weed through that, or the College Board weed through all of that on white, you’re falling out. Yeah, don’t make their jobs harder on than they need to be.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:26

That’s valuable resource. So you do test prep, you work with students doing test prep, specifically, have a passion around those who have some need some sort of accommodation, haven’t maybe a learning disability or ADHD. And you can also help parents advocate, which I guess is a lot of what you share in the book if they want to try to DIY it, but then they can also contact you.


Wendy Raynor  25:51

Yes, a lot of times what happens is, they’ll be working with another tutor somewhere and they reach a point where it’s like, Nope, okay, you need to go and talk to Wendy. And she’ll kind of suss out what’s going on. Or if we are barking up the wrong tree, like, is this really something? For instance? Yes, you have ADHD, but you’ve been medicated this whole time, and you’ve never had accommodations, but now all of a sudden you’re trying to apply. You’re not gonna get approved for that you’ve shown no struggle.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:24

So you’re giving good advice, not necessarily always popular advice of what somebody wants to hear. But you’re able to look at that situation and go, like, yeah, it’s not gonna happen. I’ve done this so many times. Well, this is bad. Keep going. But yeah, it’s, it’s highly unlikely. So okay, Wendy, this has been fantastic. I feel like we need to have you on for part two at some point. I’m sure. You can do it for sure. So your book comes out the second week of November 2023. We will link to it in the show notes. Accommodations simplified as sort of a parent’s guide. Where can our listeners follow you or learn more about you if they wish to?


Wendy Raynor  27:10

Absolutely. So you can go. My company is called W RH college prep and based in Atlanta, but you can also go to accommodations hyphen, simplified.com. And that will also lead you to that website. Eventually, it will lead to a full plethora of videos and everything like that, but that I mean, probably closer to 20 Towards the end of 2024.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:39

Okay, well, Wendy, thank you so much. This has been invaluable.


Wendy Raynor  27:44

Thank you.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:50

I’m eagerly counting down the days for Wendy’s book release. Don’t forget to check out the link in our show notes. Your college bound challenge this week. If your teen is aiming for the AC t this year, or next, let’s get strategic. Mark those test dates we’ve linked to the AC T registration site on our show notes and carve out ample time for both test prep and the accommodations application process. If getting those accommodations might be a hurdle is time for you to also get your documents in order. found today’s episode enlightening. Do me a favor and share with a friend who could benefit hitting that follow button dropping a rating or leaving a quick review makes our day and helps us empower more students to soar into bright futures. Thanks for tuning into College and Career Clarity, where we’re all about turning overwhelm into clear competent visions for your tea.