The following is a transcription of the podcast, “Accommodations vs. Modifications: What’s the Difference? (Audio).”
Students with learning disabilities (LD) might need accommodations in order to level the playing field in the classroom. The concept of accommodations often leads to questions about which ones are “valid” and how to determine if a child is eligible for them. The information below will help you answer these and other questions about the supports that may impact your child’s ability to progress in school.
Students with learning disabilities (LD)—such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia—often need accommodations in order to complete the same assignments as other students. Accommodations do not alter the content of assignments, give students an unfair advantage, or change what a test measures. They do make it possible for students with LD to show what they know without being impeded by their disability.
While the majority of a student's program should be as closely aligned with the general education curriculum as possible, some accommodations and modifications may be necessary. Listed below are some suggested ways to aid students with specific learning disabilities learn more effectively at home or at school. Selection from these and other possibilities must be based on the individual needs of each child.
What Are Accommodations?Accommodations are alterations in the way tasks are presented that allow children with learning disabilities to complete the same assignments as other students. Accommodations do not alter the content of assignments, give students an unfair advantage or in the case of assessments, change what a test measures. They do make it possible for students with LD to show what they know without being impeded by their disability.
Reader beware! This month's roundup is on somewhat shaky ground. When it comes to the issue of accommodations for students with LD, common sense is usually what drives our decision-making, and we tend to be quite comfortable (even complacent) granting a wide range of accommodations to support classroom instruction and assessment. So what's the problem? Simply stated, decisions about accommodations should be based on data rather than guesswork and intuition. And we just don't have a lot of data to guide our actions.
Accommodations for the ClassroomAn accommodation is an adjustment that allows you to participate in school or at work in a way that matches your learning strengths. Accommodations can include, among other things, a quiet work area, extra time to complete tasks, repetition of instructions, use of a calculator, and sets of instructions specially provided either orally or in writing.
Common Questions about Accommodations
- How does one determine whether a particular accommodation is “valid?”
- Should all students who are entitled to accommodations be offered a menu of accommodation options so they can choose from the ones they think will be most helpful?
- Must specific accommodations be itemized on an IEP or can decisions about which accommodations to offer be made “on the fly?”
- Can teachers provide accommodations to students during “high stakes” or standardized testing when these students did not make use of the same accommodations during regular classroom time?
- Can students opt to abstain from accepting accommodations on some occasions and then request these same accommodations at other times?
Our daughter Hillary was in the fifth grade when she was originally diagnosed with a language disability. It wasn't until she was a freshman in high school that her disability was given a name: Aphasia. Hillary's Aphasia is both expressive and receptive, meaning that reading, writing, processing information and speaking are all more laborious tasks for her than for other students. At the time of the diagnosis, doctors told us that college was an unrealistic aspiration for Hillary.
Students with learning disabilities often need additional supports, including tools or procedures, in order to access information and to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. These supports may be used in the regular classroom environment, when doing homework, and in testing situations. In this audio podcast, Dr. Lindy Crawford explains the critical differences between two very different types of supports: accommodations and modifications.
In this Parent Perspective, Salle, the mother of a high school student with Aphasia, discusses the LEAD (Learning and Education about Disabilities) program at her daughter Hillary's school. Salle credits the program with helping her daughter develop the crucial tools necessary to succeed: self-advocacy , self-knowledge and self esteem. In spite of dire predictions from well-meaning professionals, Hillary attended a four-year college.
For students with LD and/or ADHD, needed accommodations can be critical on test day. By reducing the impact of attention problems or learning difficulties, accommodations allow for a fair comparison among students. Beyond general preferences for the ACT or the SAT, students can, and should, consider the available accommodations when choosing which test to take.
There are many ways teachers can help children with learning and attention issues succeed in school. Here are some common accommodations and modifications to discuss with the school as possible options for your child.