School Accommodations for Learning Disabilities

How accommodations in environment and instruction level the playing field

Teacher Helping School Girl with Assignment
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Many parents of students with learning disabilities don't always have a full grasp on the types of accommodations their children will receive from schools during standardized testing or in class. In fact, a parent wrote in to this site specifically seeking clarification on this topic.

"My child has a learning disability, and I need to know more about accommodations," the parent explained. "Can you tell me more about learning disability accommodations?"

If you're in the same predicament as this parent, read on to learn about the types of accommodations federal law requires schools to provide students with learning disabilities. The accommodations don't serve to give such children an advantage over their typical classmates but to prevent their learning disabilities from interfering with their academic performance.

What Are Accommodations?

Before delving into the kinds of accommodations schools provide for children with learning disabilities, it's important to explain what accommodations are. In short, they are practices and procedures teachers use to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities. Accommodations involve changes in:

  • The way instruction and materials are presented;
  • The way a student may complete an assignment or test;
  • The way a classroom or other learning environment is arranged or equipped; and
  • The amount of time a student has to complete work and tests.

    Accommodations reduce or eliminate the effects of a student's disability on his ability to perform a task. Accommodations are not intended to change the content of a course or reduce the standards of a program.

    Accommodations During Standardized Testing

    Accommodations on standardized tests such as the Advanced Placement exam, state accountability assessments and the American College Test are usually only permitted when a student has accommodations during everyday instruction in class as well.

    Furthermore, some testing agencies require that a student must have had accommodations for at least two years in class before they will be allowed such accommodations during high-stakes testing.

    Examples of of Accommodations

    Accommodations for special needs students may refer to the student's environment or the materials in question. The list that follows outlines a variety of different accommodations available to students with learning disabilities.

    • Presentation of Information - This provides information in different forms to enable students to access the ideas and concepts being taught. Text readers, graphic organizers, and paraphrasing are examples of presentation accommodations.
    • Response Type - Allowing students to complete assignments and tests in different ways is an accommodation of response. Allowing a student with aphasia to write a paper or construct a model rather than present an oral report is a response accommodation.
    • Accommodations of the Environment - Changes to the student's physical work space are accommodations of the environment. Allowing a student with hyperactivity to sit on an exercise ball while writing is one type of environmental accommodation. Installing a ramp for a wheelchair is another type.
    • Timing and Scheduling Accommodations - Accommodations of timing and scheduling increase the amount of time a student has to complete an assignment or involves changes in scheduling such as increased break time.

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