What Are Accommodations?

Parents often meet with me to establish 504 plans ~ accommodation plans ~ for students who have learning challenges. Many ask me what are accommodations and can my child receive them. Accommodations change HOW a student learns, not WHAT a student learns. The distinction is quite important for families, students, and educators to understand. When a change is made to the curriculum content, it is called a modification. This post will share information about how best to support students in the general classroom with accommodations.

There are three types of accommodations for students ~ informal support, 504 support, and IEP support. An informal plan may be one where a teacher offers to provide a check-in at the end of the day to insure homework materials make it home or taps a student’s desk if she is not paying attention. 504 and IEP accommodations require documentation; a therapist sends information to the school sharing a student has severe anxiety or a student undergoes an evaluation at the school and accommodations are recommended. In these two types of situations, parents will have paperwork to complete and a formal document will be created.

So, what goes on a more formal accommodation plan? First, accommodations are designed to support the findings of an evaluation or diagnosis. Parents can also share strategies that have helped in the past and teachers can share some of the informal accommodations that have benefitted the student in the classroom.  As a team, accommodations will be created so the student has less barriers to learning in the classroom.  The plans may change during the year, especially if some accommodations are not working or if a condition worsens.

Students may also qualify for a temporary 504 plan.  This occurs when a student breaks a leg or is recovering from a major illness. The plan may offer ways for the student navigate in the school, i.e., leaves five minutes before class is over so he can avoid the rush of students in the hallway or short-term accommodations while a student transitions back into the school after treatment.  In all cases 504 plans are renewed every year and require a parent’s signature at the time of the renewal.

According to the site understood.org, most accommodations fall into four categories: presentation (the way information is presented); response (the way a student completes assignments and tests); setting (a change in the environment); or scheduling and timing (a change to the amount of time a student has to complete assignments and tests). Students may need accommodations in all four areas or just one. It is up to the school, parents, and student to determine the accommodations that best fit the needs of the student.

Accommodation plans are particularly important for students who wish to pursue higher education after high school graduation. Colleges also implement accommodations for students, but need to a history of accommodations in the public or private school setting. Accommodations are also available for standardized testing for college preparatory; both the SAT and ACT can be taken with accommodations. Again, there needs to be a history of a student using accommodations in other settings.

For additional information about accommodations, please visit https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/section-504-2/ or understood.org.