Vocational Aptitude Tests for Students With Special Needs

by Erica Loop

    Roughly 95 percent of students labeled with a disability attended special education or mainstreamed classes in regular schools in 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. An additional three percent were served by separate schools for students with disabilities and 1.2 percent attended regular private schools, notes the NCES. Helping special needs students find employment after graduation is key to their transition into independent living and the adult world. Vocational aptitude tests designed specifically for special needs students can help them to assess their strengths, interests and career aspirations.

    Although assessments for students with special needs certainly have their place, many aptitude tests for traditional children and teens also work well with other populations. Many career assessment tests are set at a lower reading level, making it possible for students who don't meet educational expectations because of a special need to effectively take the assessment. For example, the Vocational Research Interest Inventory has a reading level of fourth grade This assessment is applicable to older students who have special needs and may not meet their age-appropriate expected literacy levels.

    One of the primary functions of a vocational aptitude test -- for both special needs students as well as typically functioning ones -- is to assess the test-taker's primary interest areas. Just like anyone else, special needs students each have their own unique interests and personality types. Vocational aptitude tests for special needs students often follow the traditional RIASEC occupational personality types: Realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. For example, Pearson's CDM Internet has six interest areas that correspond to the RIASEC base.

    An aptitude test -- such as the Career Ability Placement Survey, or CAPS -- that assesses the student's practical skills can help special needs students to better understand where their vocational skills lie. The CAPS test examines eight areas, including mechanical reasoning, spatial reasoning, verbal reasoning, numerical ability, language use, word knowledge, perceptual speed and accuracy and manual speed and dexterity. These areas provide insight into the special needs student's ability to communicate with others in the work place, use numbers or equations, understand symbols and make the physical movements that a skilled trade would require.

    A vocational aptitude test that features a school focus can help special needs students to identify their potential career interests through the lens of school subjects. For example, Career Occupation Preference System, the makers of the COPS II Interest Inventory note that this aptitude test is appropriate for an older student who has motivational difficulties or reading problems. This aptitude test uses the test-taker's knowledge of school subjects to assess interest and potential career options. Additionally, the COPS II provides students with suggested classes to take that will offer practical experience.

    About the Author

    Erica Loop is an arts educator and freelance writer. She has been freelancing since 2010 and writes mostly child development and kids' activity articles for websites such as education.com. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

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