When working with your IEP team on goals for your student, be aware of these very distinct differences in terminology:
An Accommodation is a technical term for adjustments that affect how the student will learn material or share their knowledge. An Accommodation is meant to help a student keep pace with grade-level peers and access the same curriculum and material.
Examples of Accommodations include:
- extending time for the student to complete work or tests
- presenting a report orally instead of in written form (or vice-versa)
- reducing the amount of problems assigned or tested (without altering the content or core lesson)
- allowing a student to stand, sit, change seating, use a fidget device, etc.
- allowing a student to use a basic calculator to work on higher level math problems, when accessing simple addition/multiplication isn’t core to the lesson and the device merely speeds the student along
A Modification is a technical term for adjustments that affect what the student is being taught. Modifications are used to alter the content, assignment, grading system, or basic learning method of the material.
Examples of Modifications include:
- changing the content of the lesson, such as teaching the student basic multiplication tables while the rest of the class is working on the quadratic formula
- changing the assignment in a way that alters the learning standards, such as having the student submit a single sentence about the discussion topic while the rest of the class works on a 3-page essay
- changing the grading system, such as basing the grading of assignments on the IEP goals instead of the standard applied to the rest of the classroom
Accommodations, Modifications, or both may be appropriate for a student’s IEP, and it is essential that the entire team is aware of the differences between the two and how to apply them. It is important to understand that the use of Modifications may affect the student’s ability to graduate on track with their grade-level peers. Having this discussion with the IEP team is an important part of making informed decisions.