Accommodations Versus Modifications

Accommodations and modifications are two terms that are used heavily in the special education world. These are also two terms that are included in every IEP and are very important to a learner’s success. Both of these terms require specificity and training to educational team members so that everyone is consistent and the efficacy of using them is observable. In this post, I will review the definitions of both, share some examples of each that you might see in an IEP, and share information on how and why some may be used. 
The definition of an accommodation is something that alters the learning environment that allows someone the ability to gain access to the same content as their peers. Accommodations do not alter what is being taught or the content within the classroom or curriculum. Some examples of accommodations that I have given to my learners and clients are: 

  • clear and defined spaces
  • content taught in smaller groups
  • visuals paired with vocal language
  • access to Core Boards or PECS
  • new content to be taught in a 1:1 setting
  • cube chair at large group
  • sensory diet
  • direct instruction to be utilized
  • token economy
  • first/then language and visual
  • sign language and gestures are accepted 
  • clear and concise directions
  • directions repeated or paraphrased
  • text-to-speech computer-based systems
  • independent daily visual schedule
  • extended time for assignments, homework, and assessments 
  • large-print books and worksheets
  • slant boards
  • trackballs and alternative keyboards for students who operate standard mice and keyboards
  • access to a wireless mouse in place of using a mouse on a laptop computer
Modifications are changes to the curriculum. This is different that differentiation, both we hear a lot especially in special education. Differentiating a lesson or assignment has the same goal or includes the same content as the other students in the classroom. Modifications are made for learners who may be below grade level, or are missing pre-requisite skills needed to have access to the curriculum in the classroom that they are placed in, or one where their general education peers are in. Some examples of modifications that I have listed for my learners are:

  • alternate curriculum
  • assignments and tasks to be reduced
  • level 0.5 curriculum
  • alternate books to include pictures as visual supports being read in the classroom
  • curriculum pacing to be slowed down, and lessons to be revisited each week
  • fewer homework assignments sent home
  • fewer independent tasks during stations
Accommodations and modifications are important to a learner’s success. There are many more than I have included in this post that may be needed for a learner to be independent in their learning, but I hope that these help give you a jumpstart to some ideas. If a student has an IEP, there is a place to document all of these. If there is a student who does not have an IEP, however, still requires and benefits from accommodations or modifications, those should be reviewed and documented with the educational team so that everyone is consistent. These should always be revisited and changed as a student progresses in their skills and learning. Accommodations and modifications are different, but equally as important!


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