For many students with disabilities—and for many without—the key to success in the classroom lies in having appropriate accommodations and modifications made to the instruction and other classroom activities. So how are the two different?
Accommodations change how the content is taught or how the student accesses an activity. An accommodation provides a way for a student with a disability to participate meaningfully in grade-level curriculum. Some are as simple as moving a distractible student away from a window.
Modifications change what is being taught. A modification allows a student with a disability to participate in the grade-level concepts by demonstrating appropriately adjusted skills. Modifications may involve changing how much material is presented, or the way that students respond to show they are learning.
Accommodations can be used in many ways to support students with disabilities in the classroom, or when they are taking a mandated state or district assessment. Here are some examples of accommodations:
- Picture schedules
- Directions with pictures
- Hearing aids or sign language
- Special or adapted seating
- Communication devices
- Sitting near the teacher or paraeducator
- Noise buffers, such as tennis balls on chair legs to reduce noise
- Additional time to complete an activity
- Frequent breaks
A modification adjusts what a child is required to know or learn to account for his disability. For example, let’s say a four-year-old child with a disability is in a preschool classroom. When it comes time to assess letter knowledge at the end of the year, he is required to know the letters in his name, whereas the rest of his class is required to know the entire alphabet. What he needed to know was adjusted. This is a modification.
Your child’s Admission, Review and Dismissal/Individualized Education Program (ARD/IEP) team will discuss if your child needs accommodations and modifications. Any accommodation and/or modification recommended and accepted by the ARD/IEP team will be written in your child’s IEP and must be provided to him when he begins school.
Learn more about Assessment and Accommodations (PDF) from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).
Download Play Modifications for Children with Disabilities (PDF) from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to learn more about accommodating and modifying activities specifically for playtime.
Read Accommodating All Children in the Early Childhood Classroom, an article from Head Start designed to help preschool teachers.
Parts of this article were adapted from NICHCY, Parent Guide 12 by Theresa Rebhorn.