Toolkit V: Training Students with Disabilities in Testing and Assessment

Barriers to Training in Psychological Testing and Assessment

Among the many barriers to graduate training in psychological testing and assessment experienced by trainees with disabilities is the inability to obtain and utilize test manuals in accessible formats (Kemp, Chen, Erickson, & Friesen, 2003). Additionally, some trainees may also be unable to administer and score measures following the standardized protocols due to physical mobility issues, sensory deficits and/or cognitive limitations. Although trainees with disabilities may not be able, due to their functional limitations, to administer some assessment measures taught in graduate psychology programs, familiarity with these materials and methods is an essential component of graduate training and professional preparation. All trainees must be familiar with assessment and the principles of testing in order to:

  1. Complete the required graduate coursework.
  2. Be competitive for training placements such as practicum and internship.
  3. Pass National and State licensure examinations.
  4. Secure competitive employment.
  5. Be knowledgeable consumers of assessment information generated by other psychologists (Gold & De Piano, 1992; Krishnamurthy et al., 2004).

While attention has been given to the modification of test administration procedures for clients with disabilities (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Counsel on Measurement Education 1999; Fischer, 1994; Sandoval 1998), significantly less has been written regarding the modification of these procedures for test administrators with disabilities. An examination of the professional psychological literature across multiple databases (e.g., PsycInfo, PsycNet®, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, Professional Development Collection, PsycARTICLES®, Social Science Abstracts, Academic Search Premier, Google Scholar, and Proquest) indicates a marked absence of information that directly addresses testing accommodations for psychology trainees with disabilities. Additionally, preeminent graduate training programs for persons with disabilities (e.g., Gallaudet University’s clinical psychology program) report a lack of formal instructional materials regarding accommodations for their trainees who are deaf or hard of hearing. At present, resources to guide trainees and trainers in developing reasonable accommodations are scarce.

Knowledge and understanding of assessment content, process, and interpretation is fundamental to the training of any psychologist. As stated by the APA Education Directorate, Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation (2007), in Domain D of the Guidelines and Principles for Accreditation of Programs in Professional Psychology, “The program avoids any actions that would restrict program access on grounds that are irrelevant to success in internship training or a career in professional psychology” (p. 15). Therefore, all trainees – including those with disabilities – should be afforded minimum training, or declarative knowledge, in assessment. However, if the goal of training includes operational knowledge of assessment such as the case in Clinical Psychology programs (i.e., if the student will use assessment in the future as part of routine professional practice), trainers and trainees must address several important issues before making an informed final decision. Please see below for a more detailed discussion of declarative and operational knowledge.

This resource was developed by the APA Task Force on Training Issues in Psychological Testing and Assessment for Graduate Students with Disabilities and the Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology.