IEP Process: Accommodations and Modifications

5 May

The behavior intervention plan will likely contain some accommodations and modifications related to the students behaviors. However, the accommodation and modification summary is geared specifically to teaching and learning.

Accommodations and modifications are not the same. Accommodations are designed to enable the student to access grade level content and stay on the same track as peers. Modifications basically alter the expectations, lowering content standards. My students with severe disabilities are on an alternate and functional curriculum, which is a major modification from the regular state curriculum of Georgia Performance Standards everyone else has to follow. The state is in the process of aligning its alternate assessments with these standards, so that even our kids are supposed to be working on some grade level things.

Crazy, I know.

But for students who are not as severely disabled or involved, accommodations rule the day. I’m including a link to some good material covering accommodations that reflects current policy and practice and is aligned to both NCLB and the latest IDEA.

I’m keeping this section short for a couple of reasons. One, is that it is not one that I have to deal with regularly. Others can speak on it with more authority than I can. Also I want to spend more time and energy on the goals section.

This is not to say accommodations and modifications are unimportant. In fact, this section of the IEP often results in more contention and litigation than any other. This is the section of the IEP that often impacts regular ed. teachers the most. Accommodations are NOT optional for teachers. I have heard of them being somewhat optional for students, in that they often choose not to take the extra time or take advantage of extra support in their accommodations. But it is up to the case manager to make sure a student’s teachers know what the accommodations are.

A while back, there was some discussion as to how to word these things. Coach Brown advised making the language as vague as possible. As a behaviorist, that really goes against my grain. The problem with ambiguity is that no one will know what the expectation is. If the teacher interprets wording of the accommodation one way and the parent another, you are basically asking for a judge’s intervention in the matter. For instance, “extra time”; does this mean days, hours or minutes?

Being vague on this score is asking for trouble from a contentious parent/student. Specifics protect everyone involved from abuse of the system by teachers, students and parents. Once it is written and signed, this is what you all have to live with. When I LEA an IEP for students with mild disabilities, I make sure to question the regular education teacher regarding the accommodations in order to determine how reasonable they are and if they are adequate and effective. As special educators, we often don’t have a very good sense of what works for regular ed. teachers. Having some detail might help give more novice regular ed. teachers (who seem to often end up with the most involved kids) some direction and guidance as to what to do with these students. Therefore, if you are a regular ed. teacher serving students with IEPs, the accommodations section of the IEP is your most crucial component. Special educators need to make sure to solicit input from regular ed. teachers who are attending the meeting here, if no where else, since regular educators often are a bit dazed and confused when it comes to IEP meetings. And who can blame them? I’M often dazed and confused with the whole process!



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14 Responses to “IEP Process: Accommodations and Modifications”

  1. Coach Brown May 5, 2006 at 1:47 pm #

    Ok, except the Special Education teacher is not liable for the education of the 35 students in a mainstreamed class. However, the classroom teacher is.
    I know that it sounds cheap to ask that the standards are vague, but making next to impossible accomadations end up damaging classroom management and possibly, the educational process for the other students. Stating that a student “must have individual time” with a teacher during class, and then having 5 other students with that accomadation, means that a large population is left out of the general education process. I agree that the accomadations section is critical, but often it is unreasonable for a teacher to meet those requirements, legal or not. Therefore, for the protection of the teacher, requirements that are vague allows the teacher to control the environment of the classroom for the benefit of the students, plural.

    I understand that the case carrier is the advocate of the student. I also understand that the IEP is not optional. However, the entire process leaves out the consideration for the majority population in the education process. While a case carrier is the advocate for their case load, I’m supposed to be an advocate for the other 149 students that I teach.

    And let’s also understand that being vague will not immediately lead to a court battle. If the IEP was signed and is being followed, the parents must request another meeting where the school must make the effort to find appropriate accomadations. I’ve had a few meetings like this to clarify the accomadations, and they all have came out with reasonable results (although the meetings can get nasty). The one exception was when a parent wanted a college prep student accomadation to be “no homework”, which was denied by the rest of the team. The student was eventually transferred to a class that had less homework.

    Just remember the general education teacher is severely impacted by the IEP process.

  2. Dick May 6, 2006 at 10:47 am #

    you’re right! (thanks for stopping by, BTW). This is why the regular ed. teacher has to really participate. If the accomodations are unreasonable (like individual time with the teacher for x minutes) then that student may need a more restrictive environment or you might need para support. It’s actually the LEA who is supposed to advocate for the school system and defend the miniscule resources that it has. And that includes your time.


  3. Nobodyknows May 6, 2006 at 11:07 am #

    I agree with Coach Brown’s “vague language” suggestion because specific language can be damaging, and sometimes requires me to re-read through the number of IEPs I have. The most specific instructions I have been given for one student are problematic, and it leads to this student often choosing to do nothing at all. This IEP reads something like: “Student will be given one minute to comply before being asked again. Directions will be asked a total of three times, with one minute given for the student to comply each time.”

    And like Coach Brown says, this takes away from my time with the rest of the students in the classroom.

    For some reason, the majority of IEP meetings at my school take place during my class time, and I often don’t find out about them until I recieve new IEP forms in my mailbox. I really need to meet with the case worker for this student to ensure the meeting can take place when I don’t have to leave a class.

  4. speddy May 23, 2006 at 2:24 pm #

    Do meet with the caseworker Nobody, because I think under the reautorization of IDEA, if you aren’t at the meeting the parent has to waive your participation.
    I guess I am not experienced enough to understand how accomodating the needs of a few students impacts the other students IF (Big IF) the accomodations being requested are appropriate. As a special ed. teacher, I need to know if an accomodation is unrealistic or if help is needed to do it.
    Unfortunately, we don’t seem to communicate as well with each other as we might if time were not an issue.
    Just thinking outloud, please do not read this as being critical of anyone, that is not my intent.

  5. Robin June 15, 2007 at 7:35 am #

    I’m a parent ofa child with Aspergers, I went through the IEP process and was very dispointed with the results. My child was constantly being put into silent lunch for questioning a teacher. He had a lot of trouble keeping up with class and homework, even though he had an IQ score of 132 in 4th grade. They chose to give him modification like making sure the clock was always functioning in the classroom, he always had the same seat, the lights to be replaced when they flicker constantly, and he gets to use his own pencils. The modification were to much for the teachers to keep up with. So frustrated I pulled him out and put him into a private school at a cost of $4,000 a year. I have found that most teachers don’t want to be bothered by IEP kids.


  6. tlz October 4, 2007 at 2:00 pm #

    It is apparent to me that Coach Brown has no children of his own or family members who have any sort of disability; if he did, he would be more of an advocate for the child. I fully understand the difficulties of teaching, but he is the one who chose this career path. Perhaps instead of taking an adversarial stance with his students with disabilities and their families, he might better use his time to advocate for more services and monies to support these individuals from his school, the district, and the state and federal government. It might also help Coach Brown to find that the word is accommodations–not accomadations; this knowledge might come in handy as he teaches his regular students.

  7. more February 17, 2008 at 2:20 am #

    tlz, I don’t think that Coach Brown is unreasonable. Imagine a class of 35 students with five students whose very specific IEPs each require just four minutes per class of one-on-one time with the teacher.

    This is middle school or high school, and each class is a mere 45 minutes long. That’s 20 minutes — almost half the class — spent with just five students. Specifically, that’s almost half the class NOT spent with 30 students. Remember that by definition, if the teacher has to spend those four minutes one-on-one with a single student, then the teacher CANNOT spend that time with anyone else. Otherwise, the teacher violates the terms of the IEP: No matter how you try to spin it, time spent ‘mostly’ working with Joe, but also including the other 34 students, is not one-on-one time with Joe.

    Now imagine that your kid is one of the 30, instead of one of the five. These thirty kids get *nothing* during those 20 minutes. Four disabled kids also get *nothing* during 16 of those minutes. Oh, sure: for purposes of crowd control, you give them a simple assignment to do — start your homework, read the chapter, or something like that. But in terms of what the 30 students learn from the teacher during that time, the teacher might as well be taking a nap at the front of the classroom.

    For 20 minutes a day. Every single day of the school year. That’s sixty hours of instruction time — just in the one class.

    Now: if it was YOUR kid who basically got ignored for 40% of the class, would you be so willing to approve of this system?

  8. Asking for help March 29, 2008 at 3:49 pm #

    Help!!!! Anyone!!!

    I am a general ed teacher with 33 students in my class, of which 20 of them have IEP’s. No, I do not have an aide, however, SOME of the students are pulled out for Lang arts &/or math. The IEP’s must still be followed for all subject areas, of which, I feel, I do a very good job of following, under the circumstances. As if this situation is not stressful enough, I’ve recently had to deal with accusations that an IEP is not being followed correctly.

    I am one of those teachers with an impossible IEP that was ‘interpreted’ without my assistance. For the first 3 hours of the meeting, I provided student work that showed evidence that student was successful, (a’s and b’s) given my working within the accommodations as I ‘interpreted’ them. In the following 4 1/2 hours of the meeting without me, the meeting adjourned with completely unrealistic and unnecessary additions and adjustments of the accommodations, that have since left me feeling debilitated and helpless. Since that time, I have searched, to no avail, for TEACHER SUPPORT. There is none. Everything I’ve searched, leads back to the student. I can find nothing about how to write a letter of dissention, what my rights are, that 20 IEP’s to one general ed teacher is out of compliance……the list goes on and on. Can anyone tell me, IS THERE AN ADVOCATE FOR THE TEACHER?

    Does anyone know where a TEACHER stands on being able to draw the line on how much we can do?

    Who decides when inclusion student IEP’s begin to interfere with the education of the rest of the class?

    Where do the laws explain how much ‘teacher time’ is normal for any given IEP cluster? 2 hours after contract time? 4? 6? All of your spare time?

    Who decides when students are being given more than they need, for fear of being brought to due process? All at the cost of the teacher, who IS REQUIRED TO FOLLOW THE IEP, no matter what! No matter, that A’s and B’s are not enough?

    I am a general ed teacher who has successfully worked with resource students in my classroom. I am known for taking each IEP and teaching to it to the best of my ability. (All at the cost of my time with my ‘personal’ family at home, which no one seems to realize or care. I know many will say that “I chose to get into this profession,” but when will parents start understanding that their fight is with the people who made these laws without money to assist, not always with the professionals trying to implement them?)

    The increase in IEP’s within the general ed classroom is on the rise, with no assistance and more cut backs each year. For all the right reasons that these laws were developed, no one seemed to understand that additional services and money to back them, needed to be provided too.

    In the end, the success or failure of students being educated with an Individualized Education Plan, all falls on the backs of the teachers trying to implement them. Most of these teachers have limited, or none of the support written within the legal documentation of these laws. Everywhere you research, you will find support for the families of children with special needs. Where is the support for the teachers?

  9. Andrea and Aaron Quick April 18, 2008 at 10:38 pm #

    Thanks for keeping it real. We love what you stand for. We live in Washington State and we feel the same as you. We have fought very hard to change what our school district was doing within the self-contained preschool. We created IEP goals and for the entire school year they took absolutely no data. They couldn’t understand why we were so upset. They acted like it was the first time that they had ever heard that not keeping data (as outlined in the IEP) was against the law. They also made a summer program with only nine days for EVERY student. Can you believe that? They had the nerve to tell us that they didn’t know they could not do that. UNBELIEVABLE. We just want to say we embrace your commitment to hold yourself and others accountable.

  10. Anonymous May 10, 2008 at 4:38 pm #

    I am a special ed. teacher who has dealt with a lot of parents who want proof that gen ed. teachers are following IEP’s. If you modify an assignment, I have them write “Modified” in red at the top of the page so you can refer to it later. (Ex: Student only answers 10 of 20 questions; circle the 10 they have to answer) Keep the work and explain how you met the modifications criteria. If you can do that, you are off the hook.

  11. Stephen February 20, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    I teach students who are severely and profoundly disabled with autism pre- k to 4th grade. I am having a difficult time writing goals and objectives, especially relating to literacy. Any book recommendations? Websites that will help me? Any Suggestions? Thanks in Advance! I appreciate anyone’s help! Thanks again!


  12. Daniel Dage February 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    Wow. PK to 4th grade? That is a HUGE span of ages and stages! How many kids do you have?

    Try the “Tarheel reader” for starters. Just Google it.

    Then your kids can access it using a single switch and it can be read to them. At that age, you can read anything to them you want at the PK level and no one will say much. Talk to the regular Pk, K and 1st grade teachers. You’ll have to adapt and do some different things. I might shoot and post a video of a few things I’ve done with mine just to give some ideas.

    Thanks for inspiring a good video idea!

    Good luck!

  13. Stephen February 22, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    Thanks for the suggestions, but i have no computers! I have a wide range of classes (literacy cluster).

    I usually adapt a book as you suggested with Velcro and they have
    to match picture to picture, however most of my students are
    having difficult time matching pictures. Usually my goals are:

    (1) When given two random pictures relating to the story read,
    student will match picture to picture with full physical and full
    verbal prompt for five consecutive trials using different pictures
    each trial.

    (2) When given two random pictures relating to the story read,
    student will match picture to picture with partial physical and
    partial verbal prompt for five consecutive trials using different
    pictures each trial.

    (3) When given three random pictures relating to the story read,
    student will match picture to picture with no prompt for five
    consecutive trials using different pictures each trial.

    Most of my students are still on objective number (1). I am not
    sure on how to adapt the book even more to help them be more
    successful matching pictures. What other goals can I use? Should they have prior knowledge of something before
    they match pictures? Any suggestions?



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