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Elementary student using audio accommodation to support reading

Accommodations and Modifications

Accommodations remove learning barriers in the classroom to provide every child with equal access to learning. An example is offering an audio version of classroom text for a student with dyslexia or visual supports for children with ASD. Modifications are changes to what a child is taught and expected to do in class. For example, a student who struggles with spelling may be tested on a different set of words than his peers. 

A strategy used to help a student with learning needs access the same curriculum as his peers.A strategy used to help a student with learning needs achieve the same curriculum as his peers.
Curriculum learning expectations and outcomes are the same.Curriculum learning expectations and outcomes are different.
Occurs in the general education classroom.Occurs in the general education classroom.
Tools, materials, technology, visual aids, physical space, and timing are used to help the student access the currculum.Tools, materials, technology, visual aids, physical space, and timing are used to help the student achieve the currculum.
Grading is the same.Grading is different and appropriate to the student’s specific developmental level and learning needs.

The basics

Accommodations for Students with LD
See examples of accommodations that allow students with learning disabilities to show what they know without giving them an unfair advantage. Accommodations are divided into the following categories: how information is presented to the student, how the student can respond, timing of tests and lessons, the learning environment, and test scheduling.

Accommodating Students with Dyslexia in All Classroom Settings
This fact sheet describes reasonable accommodations involving materials, interactive instruction, and student performance to help children with learning problems in general education and special education classrooms.

Dysgraphia Accommodations and Modifications (opens in a new window)
Learn the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia, see a menu of accommodations and modifications, and view remediation recommendations to help students improve their writing.

Visual schedules and structures

Visual Schedules in the School Setting
A visual schedule communicates the sequence of upcoming activities or events through the use of objects, photographs, icons, or words. Find out how to set up visual schedules in your classroom to support your students.

Visual Structure in the School Setting
Visual structure adds a physical or visual component to tasks to help students with ASD to understand how an activity should be completed. Get ideas on how to implement visual structure in your classroom and support your students’ independence.

Do You See What I Mean? Visual Literacy Supports for Students with Disabilities
Many learners with disabilities are visual learners and are best able to understand and remember content when they can see it represented in some way; in other words, they need to “see what we mean.” Three visual supports helpful for teaching and supporting literacy development are described here: picture books, graphic notes, and story kits.

Visual Supports for Students with ASD
Browse this collection of visual supports and other resources to help your students with ASD be successful socially and academically in school. You’ll find templates for social rules, classroom rules, emotional support, schedules, and more.

Visual supports in the classroom

Autism expert Brenda Smith Myles talks about the importance of visual supports in the general education classroom. See the full interview with Dr. Myles here ›

Using visual supports to teach students with ASD across environments

This webcast from Virginia Commonwealth University provides educators who work with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder an opportunity to learn how to incorporate visual supports into their classrooms. Learn the importance of using visuals within four critical areas: instruction, environment, behavior, and communication.

More resources on accommodations and modifications

Common Accommodations and Modifications in School (opens in a new window)
There are many ways teachers can help kids who are struggling in school. Here are some common accommodations and modifications that schools and families can discuss as possible options for kids. (Understood (opens in a new window))

Modifications: What You Need to Know (opens in a new window)
For kids with learning and thinking differences, school can be challenging. If a child is struggling, one possible strategy is giving him less schoolwork or simpler assignments. This is called a modification. It’s not the same as an accommodation. While modifications can make school easier for kids, they can have serious drawbacks, too. Here’s what you need to know about academic modifications. (Understood (opens in a new window))

Accommodations vs modifications

Hear from parent advocate Amanda Morin on the difference between accommodations and modifications, and how each one impacts a child’s experience in the classroom. (From Understood (opens in a new window))