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.
How does a child receive accommodations?
Once a child has been formally identified with a learning disability, the child or parent may request accommodations for that child’s specific needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that a child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) team which both parent and child are a part of – must decide which accommodations are appropriate for him or her. Any appropriate accommodations should be written into a student’s IEP.
Here are some examples of possible accommodations for an IEP team to consider, broken into six categories:
Provide on audio tape
Provide in large print
Reduce number of items per page or line
Provide a designated reader
Present instructions orally
Allow for verbal responses
Allow for answers to be dictated to a scribe
Allow the use of a tape recorder to capture responses
Permit responses to be given via computer
Permit answers to be recorded directly into test booklet
Allow frequent breaks
Extend allotted time for a test
Provide preferential seating
Provide special lighting or acoustics
Provide a space with minimal distractions
Administer a test in small group setting
Administer a test in private room or alternative test site
Administer a test in several timed sessions or over several days
Allow subtests to be taken in a different order
Administer a test at a specific time of day
Provide special test preparation
Provide on-task/focusing prompts
Provide any reasonable accommodation that a student needs that does not fit under the existing categories
Should accommodations have an impact on how assignments are graded?
School assignments and tests completed with accommodations should be graded the same way as those completed without accommodations. After all, accommodations are meant to ‘level the playing field’, provide equal and ready access to the task at hand, and not meant to provide an undue advantage to the user.
What if accommodations don’t seem to be helping?
Selecting and monitoring the effectiveness of accommodations should be an ongoing process, and changes (with involvement of students, parents and educators) should be made as often as needed. The key is to be sure that chosen accommodations address students’ specific areas of need and facilitate the demonstration of skill and knowledge.