Accommodations can be a dirty word for some, but they are changes that make it easier for your child to learn. They don’t change what your child is learning but change how they are learning. I have a strong belief in meeting a students needs and accommodating every student, so that they can reach their potential. We work hard at New Morning School to make sure we are meeting our students needs. Accommodations are designed to give kids ways to learn and demonstrate knowledge of the same material as other kids their age. Accommodations don’t lower the expectations for what kids learn. They don’t change what kids are taught or tested on. Instead, they support kids’ ability to learn well in the classroom and show their knowledge by removing obstacles. Accommodations are not just for struggling students. They are for all students.

A student that needs to be challenged might have accommodations that look like:

  • Encourage students to explore concepts in depth and encourage independent studies or investigations.
  • Use thematic instruction to connect learning across the curriculum.
  • Encourage creative expression and thinking by allowing students to choose how to approach a problem or assignment.
  • Expand students’ time for free reading.
  • Invite students to explore different points of view on a topic of study and compare the two.
  • Provide learning centers where students are in charge of their learning.
  • Brainstorm with children about what types of projects they would like to explore to extend what they’re learning in the classroom.
  • Refrain from having them complete more work in the same manner. Employ differentiated curriculum to keep their interest high.
  • Ask students higher-level questions that require students to look into causes, experiences, and facts to draw a conclusion or make connections to other areas of learning.
  • Encourage students to make transformations – use a common task or item in a different way.
  • Create a room environment that encourages creativity and discovery through the use of interesting literature and reference materials.
  • Allow flexible seating arrangements.
  • Supply reading materials on a wide variety of subjects and levels.
  • Create an environment where ideas are accepted without being evaluated and criticized; where risk-taking is encouraged.
  • Provide a learning-rich environment that includes a variety of resources, media, tasks, and methods of teaching.

Struggling students’ accommodations might look like:

  • Provide an audio tape.
  • Provide materials in large print.
  • Reduce the number of items per page or line.
  • Brainstorm with children about what types of projects they would like to explore to extend what they’re learning in the classroom.
  • Provide a designated reader.
  • Present instructions orally.
  • Allow for verbal responses.
  • Allow for answers to be dictated to a scribe.
  • Allow the use of a tape recorder to capture responses.
  • Permit responses to be given via computer.
  • Create an environment where ideas are accepted without being evaluated and criticized, where risk-taking is encouraged.
  • Provide a learning-rich environment that includes a variety of resources, media, tasks, and methods of teaching.
  • Permit answers to be recorded directly into test booklet.
  • Allow frequent breaks.
  • Create an environment where ideas are accepted without being evaluated and criticized, where risk-taking is encouraged.
  • Extend allotted time for a test.
  • Provide preferential seating.
  • Provide a space with minimal distractions.

You can see that accommodations look similar no matter what the student’s needs might be. They are interchangeable depending on the student and what his/her needs are. We work hard to accommodate at school, but you can also do some things at home.

  • Focus on the child’s strengths, not the weaknesses.
  • Set reasonable expectations.
  • Provide the guidance needed for independence.
  • Maintain consistent discipline.
  • Foster intellectual curiosity.
  • Help children classify and categorize objects.
  • Provide good language models and stimulation.
  • Guide the child’s language comprehension.
  • Help the child comprehend and remember longer units of language.
  • Encourage mathematics and number activities.
  • Help the child learn to play.
  • Encourage children to listen to music and to develop a sense of rhythm.
  • Teach simple time concepts.
  • Provide structure for children with attention problems.

Children with special needs on all sides have special gifts – gifts like sensitivity, perseverance, tenacity, and resilience. These gifts are more important than perfect recitation of a concept. All children can make progress, but the rate and amount of improvement varies. Try to build on your child’s strengths to build his or her sense of self-respect. Help the child realize the value of people in all walks of life as you go about daily routines. It is important for each child to realize we all have gifts that can change the world.

Christine Jansen is an elementary teacher at New Morning School. She can be reached at christine@newmorningschool.com.