What is the distinction between modifications and accommodations?
Updated: Feb 13, 2022
Modifications are changes to the curriculum that are made in order to meet the needs of a student with a disability.
Accommodations, on the other hand, are changes to the environment or the way things are done that make it easier for a student with a disability to participate in class.
Some people think accommodations should be reserved only for students with severe disabilities whereas others say that modifications can be helpful for all types of learners. What do you think?
Educating the IEP Team
The distinction between modifications and accommodations may have been ingrained in your head as a special education teacher, but it's reasonable to assume that the rest of the IEP team isn't aware of the distinction.
The IEP team, which will include the parents, must be familiar with the difference between accommodations and modifications in order to fully participate in the IEP process. If a short review is given everyone will be better prepared to make decisions about the child's IEP and how to best support the student.
The best way to understand the difference is by looking at what each one does. An accommodation is something that changes how a student interacts with their environment, while a modification changes how and what in the curriculum is delivered.
For example, if your child has trouble reading aloud in class because he has dyslexia, then accommodation would be having him read silently instead of out loud so he doesn't get hung up on the difficulty of reading complicated sentences. A modification would be having him read books on tape so he's able to listen while following along with the text in his book, thus learning about punctuation and inflection that makes it easier for him to understand what he's reading.
When it comes to special needs, parents are often faced with difficult decisions. Do they provide accommodations or modifications? This guide can help with that decision making process.
Understanding Accommodations vs. Modification the short version
The accommodation of a student with an IEP entails a change in HOW the material is learned. A modification changes WHAT is taught or expected to be learned, as well as how it is evaluated. It's a substantial change to the curriculum.
Common IEP accommodations
Some common accommodations that are listed in IEPs include extended time on tests, providing a note-taker, or allowing the student to break up large assignments into smaller chunks. Other accommodations may be specific to the individual student's needs and might include things like using a computer for tests instead of writing by hand, sitting in the front of the classroom, or working with a tutor. It's important to remember that accommodations should not be seen as a band-aid solution and should be used in conjunction with other interventions in order to help the student learn and be successful.