Individualized Education Plan (IEP) accommodations are an important part of individualizing a student’s education plan. Accommodations are changes made to enable a student to achieve learning in their own way. Unlike modifications, accommodations do not alter the learning expectations, only the manner in which the learning goal is taught. Accommodations modify the process used to complete an assignment, providing better equity for students with disabilities. For example, an accommodation might be a simple extension of time for a student who has trouble focusing for short periods, while a modification might include eliminating or changing the assignment to match the student’s capabilities. Another way to differentiate accommodations vs. modifications is to remember that accommodations change HOW a student learns, not WHAT a student learns.
Since accommodations are not defined in the IDEA, there are a wide variety of sources defining them. However, most authorities place accommodations into 4 broad categories. The IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University explains these categories as such:
- The way information is presented (e.g., text, lecture)
- The way the student is required to respond (e.g., writing, speech)
- The characteristics of the setting (e.g., noise, lighting)
- The timing and scheduling of instruction (e.g., time of day, length of assignment)
Other experts call these 4 categories, in the order listed above, Presentation, Response, Environment and Timing.
Accommodations help level out any potential differences between students and make sure everyone with an IEP gets access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). It is important that these accommodations are tailored to meet each student’s individual needs, and to be part of an IEP they must be written. Accommodations help ensure that all students get the most out of their educational experience while still meeting all of their assigned goals and objectives.
The IRIS Center points out that attempts at IEP accommodations need to be quantified and evaluated with objective data, not subjective observations. Detailed, accurate data is at the heart of evaluating accommodations.