How to navigate accommodations and modifications in public schools
Learn how to work with educators to ensure your child receives the support they need.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, children with disabilities, including learning, intellectual or physical disabilities, are required to receive extra support in public schools. By law, your child should have a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that outlines what accommodations and modifications they need in school.
What are accommodations?
Accommodations determine how your child will best learn in school. Your child will be expected to learn the same material as their classmates, while receiving extra support to help them learn, such as:
- Audio recordings of books or texts
- Assistance taking notes
- Extra time to complete tests
- Completing tests or assignments in a different area than other students
- Typing assignments instead of writing them
What are modifications?
Modifications are changes to what your child will learn. Children with modifications may not learn the same materials as their classmates. Modifications include:
- Shorter reading assignments
- Different testing materials or shorter tests
- Learning in a specialized classroom
- Receiving one-on-one attention
Creating a plan for accommodations or modifications
You will meet with your child’s teachers multiple times per year to create and carry out an 504 plan or IEP. You know your child better than anyone. These meetings give you a chance to advocate for your child’s education and ensure they have the support they need.
During the meeting, you’ll discuss your child’s current school performance, set goals for the next school year and determine what support services your child will receive. You can invite a member of your child’s health care team or another advocate to come with you to the meeting.
“When parents are in those meetings, they need to carefully pay attention to what their child is going to be provided,” says Alice Ann Holland, Ph.D., ABPP, a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist and the Research Director of the Neuropsychology Service at Children’s Health℠. “If they have concerns, they need to bring them up during those times.”
You may feel your child’s plan is not individualized enough or contains modifications your child doesn’t need. You should speak up about these issues to ensure your child’s plan is meant for them — not just for any child with their disability. You can take home a draft of your child’s plan to think it over. Once you and your children’s teachers agree on the plan, everyone will sign it.
Implementing your child’s plan
Once the plan is in place, if you don’t think your child is receiving the correct support, it’s important to communicate with the school.
“Parents need to be familiar with IEP or 504 documentation and keep tabs on what is going on at school,” says Dr. Holland. “Ask about the plans at parent-teacher meetings, or via email or phone. If something is not being done, the parents have a lot of recourse to help their children.”
Dr. Holland says most schools are willing to work with parents and children. However, if your child’s school is not meeting your child’s agreed-upon needs, special education attorneys and other resources can help your child get the resources they need.
If your child has disabilities, talk to a neuropsychologist at Children’s Health to learn more about what strategies can help them at school.
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