Friday, November 9, 2007

Modifications, Accommodations, Adaptions, v. Special Instruction


My child has a 504 Plan. She is supposed to have a reader and a scribe for classroom assignments and tests. Can she also have a reader and a scribe when she takes the Graduation Qualifying Examination (GQE)?


It is that time of year again. Across the nation, classes are beginning. Parents are looking at IEPs and 504. Parents often ask questions about accommodations.


Accommodations are services or items that schools provide to adjust for a child’s disability. Accommodations never take the place of special instruction. Too often, that is exactly what happens.

Children with disabilities have a right to special instruction. Schools must teach child with disabilities.

Schools often suggest readers and scribes for children do not read or write well. This is all well and good as long as the school also provides reading and writing instruction. Schools often suggest accommodations instead of special instruction.

Most children can learn to read and write. For a child who can learn to read and right, readers and scribes are supposed to supplement instruction, not take its place. Schools should provide accommodations to a child with low reading and writing levels while the child receves instruction in reading and writing.

Accommodations supplement instruction. They accompany each other. Instruction and accommodations go hand in hand.

Children who learn to read and write do not need for readers and scribes. Schools that provide proper instruction are fulfilling the mission of IDEA 2004: They are preparing children for further education, employment, and independent living. 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)

What about Modifications and Adaptations?

The same thing is true with modifications and adaptations. Modifications and adaptations change or adjust lessons and curriculum to meet the child’s unique needs. Modifications and adaptations do not replace instruction.

Examples of modifications and adaptations include

  • Enlarging text, lessons, and worksheets for a child with a visual impairment
  • Modifying a curriculum to adjust for the child’s disability.
  • Supplying a child with a hearing impairment with an FM Receiver

Waiving worksheets is not an option. That lowers the bar for the child. Watering down the course work does not prepare the child for adult life in the adult world.

Modification, adaptations, and accommodations do not provide unfair advantages. They do not make things easier. They should level the playing field for the child. They allow a child with a disability to learn the same things as his non-disabled peers. The child does the same work, but in a different way.

Back to the parent's question about accommodations on the Graduation Qualifying Exam (GQE):

The parent’s concern is whether this child should have a reader and a scribe. This tells us this child cannot read or write well enough to take the GQE without accommodations.

The more important question is why the school has not taught this child to read and write. She may pass the GQE with the aid of a reader and a scribe. She may earn a high school diploma. Can she go to college, live on her own, and earn a living?

This child needs special instruction. That is the battle this parent must fight.

Read what Pete Wright has to say about accommodations:,

Read what Sue Heath has to say about accommodations and high stakes testing:

Read what Pat Howey has to say about modifications:
Some children with disabilities need accommodations and modifications in their special education programs.
This 4 page printer-friendly PDF article defines accommodations and modifications and gives examples for books, curriculum, instruction, assignments, and behavior.

Remember that denying the accommodations and modifications that will allow the child equal access to an education is a denial of the child's right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Learn more here.

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