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 for NAPLAN -


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.

  1. Extra time
  2. Rest breaks
  3. Electronic testing
  4. 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.


Extra Time

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.


Rest Breaks

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.


Electronic Testing

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.


Separate Supervision

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.

Disability Adjustments for NAPLAN -


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?