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Aspergers and State Exams

Updated on June 21, 2010

Test Modifications

    Living with someone who possesses an Asperger Brain is always an adventure.  It is especially trying when it comes to exam times.  Of course, all students experience stress and anxiety to some level when faced with the task of completing those long drawn cummulative exams on a hot summer morning when the end of school is just on the horizon.  The difference is that it is not the subject matter that is causing the stress for the Asperger student.

     Last week, my son took two New York State Regents Exams:  Science and Geometry.    He sailed through the science exam with the assistance of his one to one paraprofessional who is permitted to scribe for him with supervision from the school based support team.  He is tested in a separate location so that if he get anxious at all, he will not disturb the rest of the students.  He was very relaxed and pleased with himself after completing his Science exam.

    However, Math was pure torture.  The sad part is that he KNOWS every single answer without even doing the figuring.  He has always been able to LOOK at math examples and just know what the final result will be without going through all of the steps.  If this is what was necessary, he would have scored 90-100.  He scored a 77.  He spent 6 hours taking this exam.  He has extra time alloted and rarely has to use it, but this time he did.   The problem is that in order to get full credit on the Regents exams, one must SHOW THE WORK that you used to get the answer.  This doesn't work for an Asperger mind.  The work is in his brain.  He does not know how to show it, nor can you reason with him to to just write the steps down because he doesn't find it necessary to show the steps.  He doesn't need them.   Over and over throughout the school year, teachers, counselors, his father, brother and I have worked with him about how to show the work.  At the practice session, he actually did it.  I thought maybe we were going to be alright.

    No...that was not the case.  On test day he refused to show any work because he "knew the answer" and did not copy, why did he have to show work? Points lost.  Then he got stuck on a problem and was not SURE of the answer.  He absolutely refused to skip it and move on to the next.  He would not even venture a guess.  He began to panic and it led into a full scale meltdown.  After an hour and a half, the school finally called me.  I could hear him hysterical in the background.  I wanted to climb through the phone.  I calmed him via the telephone and he kept telling me that he could not skip because his brain simply did not work that way.

    Within the half hour, his father and I were at the school, but he had calmed down after speaking to me.  The counselor and para got him to write whatever they could.  He did indeed answer correctly but because he did not show the work, he lost points.  Here is my problem.  A student who did not get the answers correct, but showed all the work, had the potential to get a higher score than my son who knew the answers but was held back because his disability, which by the way is a gift, kept him from having to sit and figure out all of the work.  His gift is that he knows the work just by looking.  His brain works like a computer.  However, he is not rewarded for this in our system, he is punished.  Not fair New York State!


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      Joan Azarva 

      8 years ago

      Since 1993, my focus as a Learning Specialist has been the critical high school-to-college transition for students with learning disabilities. I am passionate about seeing the postsecondary success rate for this cohort rise, as I feel that many of our students are failing unnecessarily.

      I invite you to check out my exciting new blog, Conquer College with LD/ADD, at

      If you are the parent of a high school teen, subscribe to my listserve and receive a FREE 55-page downloadable E-Book, Interactive Academic Websites (for high school and college students), that helps make students active learners and takes the tedium out of studying.

      Hope to see you there!


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