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Testing accommodations, autism and the California Bar Exam

A lot of people forget that autism encompasses a vast spectrum of capabilities -- and it isn't necessarily a barrier to achieving one's dream of becoming an attorney.

Just this past January, for example, a young woman with high-functioning autism was admitted to the Florida Bar. She's believed to be the first openly autistic person who has done so.

She's not entirely alone. There are other attorneys and would-be attorneys on the autism spectrum. For many, the areas of law they specialize in are uniquely suited to both their limitations and their skills. Even though many autistic people suffer from problems with social interactions and processing delays, they can excel when it comes to focus and attention to detail.

So, if you're a law student with autism, what can you do to level the playing field once you get to the California Bar Exam? Asking for accommodations can feel intimidating, but it's important to remember that it's your legal right under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If you have autism, when would testing accommodations such as extra time and a quiet space level the playing field for you when you take the bar exam? See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

  • You compensated for your processing delay by simply working longer hours than your peers.
  • You constantly need to read the same material several times over in order to comprehend the meaning, even though you know all of the individual words.
  • You generally feel like you know more than you can demonstrate on a timed exam because it just takes you longer to transfer your thoughts to paper than it does others.
  • You experience significant anxiety during tests.

If you've experienced these problems in the past, you have every reason and right to ask for testing accommodations. If you're having difficulty getting approved, find out more about your legal options.

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