Many people use the terms “school accommodations” and “school modifications” interchangeably. While there are similarities, they are not quite the same. Accommodations help students level the playing field by making adjustments to how they learn. On the other hand, modifications alter the field by changing what they learn. Here’s the breakdown: 

Accommodations:

There are a number of things that schools can do to help ensure a child’s success. With the help of an IEP or 504 Plan (see below) you have a right to ask for suitable accommodations regarding your child’s physical or mental disability. Here are a few examples:

  • If a child has problems with writing, he would be able to give his answers orally
  • Extended or unlimited time would be allowed on tests
  • The use of a spell-checker or calculator would be permitted
  • Instead of reading, the child could listen to audio books or have the material read to him
  • Preferential seating would be allowed to remove distractions or permit bathroom breaks
  • Daily or weekly home communication tools such as a homework log, email messages or phone calls

Modifications:

Usually a modification is something tangible meaning a change in what is being taught and/or what the student is expected to learn. For example:

  • The amount of homework could be reduced from what other students have
  • Easier or shorter reading assignments may be assigned
  • The grading system might be changed to pass/fail or complete/incomplete rather than a grade
  • Preview tests may be provided as a study guide for the actual test
  • Student would be able to present projects instead of written assignments
  • Rather than a fill-in-the-blank or essay type of test, the child would be allowed to take a multiple-choice test or choose from a word bank

IEP vs. 504 Plan:

An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan that is developed to enable a school-aged child with a disability to received specialized instruction and services, as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The 504 Plan puts safeguards in place for a school-aged child with a disability to make sure he or she receives needed accommodations for academic success.

Of course, accommodations and modifications don’t always have to be reinforced by an IEP or 504. Teachers can sometimes provide informal accommodations upon request. Some of those are identified in School Accommodations for Anxious Children.

If you suspect your child is struggling in school and may have a learning disability or mental disorder, please contact a mental health professional for an evaluation. Together, you will be able to work together on an effective plan that will help your child be successful in the school years ahead.