Accommodations (what are they?)

Accommodations are commonplace in today’s classrooms.  But you may be asking, “What EXACTLY is an accommodation?”.  You can follow along with the expanded outline below, or just read the outline if that’s more your thing. I give many examples of accommodations for children who have a specific diagnosis, but please know that one accommodation may be appropriate for many students with many unique needs.  These are only a few examples of an infinite number of accommodations.  Please contact us if you would like to create accommodations for your child’s specific needs. 


Accommodations Explained, for parents

Expanded Outline

  • What is an accommodation?  An accommodation is a change that is made to ensure a person has access to the same things as everyone else.  Our focus here is specifically accommodations made for your child inside the classroom, although, you can think bigger- many of these may apply to your home, or when you are in the community. 

  • Who gets accommodations? 

    • Accommodations are given to many children, some may have been identified for Special Education Services under qualifying factors such as; ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), Deafness, Blindness, developmental delay, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, cognitive disability, orthopedic impairment, SED (Serious Emotional Disability, SLD (Specific Learning disability), Speech or Language Impairment, or Visual Impairment. 

    • Other children receive accommodations because they are gifted, have a specific health or physical needs, and have a diagnosis such as dyslexia, but do not receive special education services. 

    • And many other students, for various reasons.  The point here is, chances are, your child is not the only one in class who receives accommodations.

  • How many Accommodations are there?

    • Accommodations are expansive, there is an infinite number of accommodations only limited by your imagination. 

    • They are also individualized, may change from year to year, or may need to be altered throughout the year.

  • Developing Accommodations

    • Walk in your child’s shoes.  Accommodations should be created from your child’s perspective.  Imagine you are your child going through their day, with all of their struggles. 

    • Think Purpose.  As you think about the day your child will go through, keep in mind the real purpose of the activity.  For a child with SLD, it might be to decipher Shakespearian text, for others, to participate in parallel play.  The accommodations should align with the purpose. 

  • Types of Accommodations

    • Presentation – How the student gets the information/ How the teacher presents it; large group, small group, or individual.

      • Large group- Lecture, video, etc.   A child with dysgraphia will benefit from having an outline of the teacher’s lecture to take notes on. 

      • Small group- A reading group, centers, lab group, or even small groups in PE class. A child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) may use sound blockers during the noisy center time.

      • Individual – Reading to gain information and computer-based learning are examples of this.  Student’s with dyslexia often use the audio version of textbooks. 

    • Response – This is how the child lets you know what he or she has learned.  Accommodations in this area might include word predictive software for a child with dyspraxia, or the choice to create a model as opposed to a written essay for a child with dyslexia.

    • Environment – This is a big one, and includes a lot.

      • Physical Access – Think of getting around, but also hearing, vision etc.  Also think of the child’s self-concept here.  Does everyone have to move their desks in order for your daughter in a wheelchair get to a computer? 

      • Distraction – A child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may be distracted by sounds, visuals, etc.?  Think of this especially in seating arrangements. 

      • Hearing – A child with Autism or who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing may be disturbed by certain sounds such as; vents, windows, pencil sharpener, projector, computers, etc.

      • Smelling – More kids are sensitive to smells than ever, some with ASD, some with allergies.  Letting a teacher know that her flowery perfume is distracting and hurting your child’s nose is OK.

      • Taste/Eating –Some children who are very sensory defensive or on medication for ADHD, do not eat enough during lunch because they are sensitive to tastes.  It might be important to have extra snacks as an accommodation since nutrition is imperative to learning. 

      • Touch – Many children with SED (serious emotional disability) or ASD are sensitive to touch, being touched, feeling certain textures, etc.  Accommodations in this area may be to have a child in front of the teacher, as opposed to in line where other kids tend to invade normal personal space boundaries. 

      • Sight – There are many reasons to consider accommodations in this area for a child with SLD (Specific Learning Disability) minimizing input on a worksheet is a good accommodation.  Audiobooks for a child who is Blind or with a Visual Impairment, and alternative lights for a child who has some Sensory Defensiveness. 

    • Timing and Scheduling – These are really two separate areas.  Timing is the length of time something might take, and scheduling being when during the day.  Giving extra time for a child with SLD on tests and assignments and scheduling in bathroom breaks for a child with a physical illness are common accommodations. 

    • Activity level – inward and outward

      • Inward- Your child’s personal need for activity may be significantly different than other children’s.  A child with some orthopedic impairments might require a rest break during the day, a child with ADHD might need to take a running break. 

      • Outward – The activity level around your child.  In a very busy and loud classroom, a child with a Hearing Disability might require a quiet place to do independent work. 

    • Sensory – Sensory accommodations really fit into all of these other categories, but I think this area is important enough that we give it some thought. We often think of sensory input for students who have ASD, but this can be useful for many students.  For example, a child with SED might benefit from carrying heavy objects or going for a walk as regularly scheduled accommodation. 

    • Social/Emotional

      • Self-esteem – If a student is struggling in school, chances are that their self-esteem has taken a hit.  Including an accommodation that will help build a healthy self-concept can really make a difference.  For example, an extra classroom job or a weekly 5 minute game with a teacher can help boost self-esteem for many students with SLD, SED, ASD, etc. 

      • Behavior and social skills – Many students struggle with behavior or need a bit of extra to support appropriate social skills, even if they don’t have the diagnosis of SED.  Accommodations such as a reward system, visual schedule,  a checklist, or cue cards are some ideas that can help in this area.  

Thomas Chung