For many students with disabilities—and for many without—the key to success in the classroom lies in having appropriate adaptations, accommodations, and modifications made to the instruction and other classroom activities. Some adaptations are as simple as moving a distractible student to the front or away from the pencil sharpener or the window. Other modifications may involve changing the way that material is presented or the way that students respond to show their learning.
Adaptations, accommodations, and modifications need to be individualized for students, based upon their needs and strengths. Doing so can help students access the general education curriculum and other learning materials and activities. Accommodations can also help students demonstrate what they have learned. This type of individualization is part of what’s “special” and “specially designed” about special education.
Modifications or accommodations are most often made in the following areas:
Scheduling. For example:
Giving the student extra time to complete assignments
or tests breaking up testing over several days
Setting. For example:
Working in a small group working one-on-one with the teacher
Materials. For example:
Providing audiotaped lectures or books giving copies of teacher’s lecture notes
or using large print books, Braille, or books on CD (digital text)
Instruction. For example:
Reducing the difficulty of assignments
Reducing the reading level
Using a student/peer tutor
Student Response. For example:
Allowing answers to be given orally or dictated using a computer for written work, or
using sign language, a communication device, Braille, or native language if it is not English.
What is most important to know about modifications and accommodations is that both are meant to support individual children in their learning.
You and the other members of the IEP team will probably spend time discussing your child’s learning needs and the ways in which classroom instruction, testing, homework, and school activities can be modified or adapted to help your child access the general education curriculum, demonstrate his or her learning, and participate with students who do not have disabilities. If the IEP team decides that your child needs a particular modification or accommodation, this information must be included in the IEP.
Program Modifications or Supports for School Staff
Supports are also available for those who work with your child, to help
them help your child:
• Achieve his or her annual goals
• Be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum
• Participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities
• Be educated and participate with children who do not have disabilities.
An example of one such support might be to arrange for key personnel involved with a given child to receive training related to that child’s needs.
Participation with Children without Disabilities
As we said earlier in this guide, IDEA strongly prefers that children with disabilities be educated in the general education class with children who do not have disabilities. In fact, it requires that children with disabilities be educated with their peers without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate for each child.
In keeping with this requirement, then, each IEP must include an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in [extracurricular and nonacademic activities]. Just because a child has severe disabilities or needs modifications to the general education curriculum does not mean that he or she may be removed from the general education class. Accommodations, modifications, and supplementary aids and services can, and often do, play an important part in supporting children with disabilities in the regular educational environment.
Removing a child from this environment may occur only if the nature or severity of the child’s disability is such that educating the child in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily, even with the use of supplementary aids and services. Therefore, if your child is going to be removed from the general education class for any part of the school day, the IEP team must include an explanation in the IEP.
Location and Duration of Services
Each of the services your child needs is written down in the IEP.
The IEP must also include:
• How often your child will receive the service(s)-
(number of times per day or week)
• How long each session will last (number of minutes)
• Here services will be provided (in the general education classroom
or another setting such as a resource room)
• When services will begin and end (starting and ending dates).
The IEP team may also consider whether or not your child needs to receive services beyond the typical school year. This is called Extended School Year or ESY services.51 Some children receiving special education services may be eligible for ESY services. If you or your child’s teachers feel your child needs ESY services, it should be discussed during the IEP meeting.
Reporting Your Child’s Progress
Under IDEA, you must be kept informed of your child’s progress on IEP goals As mentioned earlier, the IEP team will decide when periodic reports will be provided to you and include this information in the IEP. A “periodic report” might be issued quarterly, for example, when the school system issues report cards.
Look in your child’s progress reports to see whether or not your child is making adequate progress to reach his or her goals by the end of the year. If not, then you will want to talk to the IEP team about how to address the lack of expected progress.