It can be so overwhelming to ask for help for your child. You might not be sure what the school can offer or even what’s reasonable to ask for.
Getting a paraprofessional, for some children, could be a moonshot. But there are many easy to implement solutions that your child’s teachers can act on right away.
Ask for these accommodations and modifications at your next special education meeting
First, let’s clear up the difference between an accommodation and a modification.
Accommodation: a change to the learning environment that allows a child to access the general curriculum at the same level as his/her peers. Think: Braille textbooks, extended test time, preferential seating.
Modification: a change to the content, level, and/or delivery method of the learning material; modifications represent a departure from the general curriculum as compared to his/her same age peers. Think: pull-out instruction, reduced workload, substantially separate placement.
- Preferential seating: position a student a place that improves ability to learn effectively. Ex: close to board, close to teacher, near a peer model
- Extended test time: allow a student to have extra time to complete a grade level test on previously taught material; specify how much extended time will be allowed (half the regular class period, 30 extra minutes, within one school day)
- Quiet testing space: a student is allowed to take a grade level test on previously taught material in a quiet environment pre-selected by the teaching team
- Work organizers: provide a student with a work/assignment checklist or another visual reminder to keep him/her on track
- Extended deadlines: allow 1-2 extra school days to complete agreed upon assignments, generally used for projects or on-going assignments
- Behavior reward system: provide verbal, visual, and/or written reminders to a student about the appropriate or desired behaviors as outlined in the class rules or school code of conduct; provide an incentive reward for meeting an agreed-upon level of desired behavior during a set period of time. Ex: ending the day on a certain color, earning X amount of points for behaving appropriately
- Work reward system: similar to the behavior reward system, but substituting work completion and/or class participation. Ex: completing X assignments without redirection, participating in class discussions X times out of Y opportunities, turning in homework daily for one week
- Fidget: provide a child with an agreed upon item to manipulate or handle throughout the school day in order to help control impulsive behaviors. Ex: velcro strip stuck to desk, paracord with beads to slide, stress ball
- Flexible seating: allow a student to choose, within reason, where to complete work in the classroom OR use alternative seating for the workspace. Ex: sit on floor, sit under desk, use an exercise ball, use a desk cycle or desk band, work at a standing desk
- Memory devices: multiplication/division or addition/subtraction charts, calculators, spelling guides, study guides, guided notes, etc. Anything that helps the student remember common materials in order to complete grade level work
- Leveled grouping: working with a student in the general education setting with same age peers on grade level curriculum-based material in a group that best matches his/her abilities
- Breaks: allow a short break from work for student to decompress and destress. Can be quiet, physical, or reward based. Quiet: listen to quiet music, sit with eyes closed and noise canceling headphones on. Physical: take a walk, do squats or pushups, walk up and down stairs. Reward: doodle, technology time, play a game, read
- Speech to text: allow student with writing difficulty to use a program that creates text documents from spoken work
- Shared notes: allow student with difficulty performing written work share notes with a peer
- Oral assessments: allow a student with difficulty in written expression complete grade level assessments verbally
- Verbal directions: teacher can read test/assignment directions out loud to student
- Organization system: create an organization system for work using an agreed-upon, student-driven plan. Ex: color-coded folders and notebooks, placing work in designated areas of the desk/classroom
- Communication and assignment log: use an agreed-upon method to communicate school work, projects, tests, and behavior from school to home and vice versa. Ex: agenda book, home/school notebook, daily emails, online classroom
Now all modifications take some work and planning on the part of the teacher. While these modifications are easier, they are still a change to the general curriculum.
- Reduced workload: shortening assignments in order to improve work motivation and successful completion
- Assignment exemption: allowing students to “skip” certain assignments as agreed upon (ex: weekly spelling tests, 2 of 4 daily math stations) assignments or assignments at the teacher’s discretion (ex: missing this week’s writing assignment, but completing at least one writing assignment for the month)
- Modified tests: change student’s test to shorten the length or remove questions based on known stengths/weaknesses; test will be graded based on work completed out of total number of questions on modified test
- Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): student works toward behavior goals based on an individualized set of behavior standards
- Work progress chart: using teacher designated “must-do” assignments, student works to complete a set amount of assignments daily (similar to assignment exemption, but incorporates a reward system)
- Work choice: allow for a student to choose between two or more equal assignments (could choose 1 of 3 assignments that all gen ed students are completing)
- Setting choice: allow a student to choose where to work on difficult assignments; requires agreement between two or more service providers/teachers/administrative staff. Ex: student selects to work on math assignment in the resource room
- Leveled assignments: provide student with very guided assignments (fill-in-the-blank, work bank, etc.) to complete similar work to same age peers working at grade level
- Alternate texts: provide similar content as the general curriculum but written at the student’s target or that meet student’s IEP goals
Asking for Accommodations and Modifications
At your meeting, present your requests for easy accommodations and/or modifications logically. Make sure that you explain how this will help your child either access the general curriculum successfully OR succeed with their IEP.
Explain: I would like to try (accommodation/modification) for my child. I think that she/he would benefit from this (explain benefit to child). The teacher is already doing (point to similar structures already in place in the classroom, if any).
Give the teacher(s) a reason to buy into these changes. Agree to provide the new folders or fidgets or other items within reason. Detail how the changes will be supported at home or by non-school therapists.
As you explain, keep the tone positive and upbeat. Stick to the facts and keep your emotions in check. For ideas about how to maintain your cool while in a tense meeting, download Talk to the Teacher today.
What are some essential and easy accommodations or modifications that you have gotten for your child? Share your favorites in the comments!