I am trying to get my son an IEP at school, but I am confused by the terminology. What are the differences between “adaptations,” “accommodations,” and “modifications”?
by Sandra Rief, M.A.
What are they: Adaptations are any adjustments in the curriculum, instructional components, environmental elements, or requirements or expectations of the student. Adaptations are part of what teachers do to meet the needs of diverse learners. A good teacher attempts to differentiate instruction and make adjustments to enable all students to succeed.
Adaptation Examples Adaptations may involve adjustments or changes in the following areas:
> Teaching strategies
> Task demands
> Testing or evaluation
> Lesson presentation
> Student demonstration of understanding or mastery of content
> Student response opportunities
> Level of support
> Degree of participation
> Time allotted
> Size or quantity of task or assignment
Adaptations include accommodations and modifications.
What are they: Accommodations are adaptations that do not fundamentally change the performance standards, instructional level, or content of what the student is expected to learn. They are the same as for other students in the class or grade.
> Change of location (for testing)
> Extra support or assistance (peer, buddy, cross-age tutor, more small group instruction)
> Assistance with organization or time management (keeping track of materials, recording assignments, breaking down large assignments)
> Providing tools or aids to support learning (outlines, graphic organizers, study guides, assistive technology, audio books)
> Computer access
> Preferential seating to enable a student to focus better during class and to receive more direct and frequent prompting, monitoring, and feedback from the teacher
> Reduction in the length of an assignment
> Allowing a student to dictate answers to a scribe
> Allowing a student to take a large test by doing one page at a time
> An oral reader for some tests
> Allowing a student to take a test by giving answers orally
> Providing a student with a written set of directions as a backup to orally presented information
What are they: Modifications are adaptations that do alter or change what the student is learning (the content or part of the curriculum). They also change, to some degree, the performance standards — the expectations for that student compared with what is required of his or her peers in the same classroom or grade.
> Giving a student a different or alternative assignment. For example, a student may be assigned to write a single paragraph on a topic and draw an illustration rather than write a five-paragraph essay.
> Working with instructional materials at a lower level than other students of that grade.
> Using a reading anthology from a lower grade level rather than a grade-level text when the class is doing a unit on comparing short stories.
> Providing some students with a partially filled-in graphic organizer for a science lab experiment rather than the blank one used by their classmates.
> Reducing the number of words that a child needs to learn for a spelling test or testing him or her on different words.
> Providing an alternate form of a test to a student
> Using a different report card format. A student may receive a narrative report card rather than grades, or he or she may be graded according to different standards from those used to measure the majority of students.
> Allowing students in middle school or high school to have a modified class schedule. They might be given an extra study hall or not be required to take a foreign language.
For students with disabilities, necessary accommodations and modifications are educational rights, not favors granted by teachers or school staff. It is generally recommended that accommodations be tried whenever possible before more significant modifications in curriculum or work expectations are made.
Many students with disabilities require both accommodations and modifications. Students with significant reading disabilities need to build reading competency through instruction and materials at an appropriate level in order to strengthen and practice skills, as well as compensatory methods, tools, and supports to enable them to access grade-level curriculum.