IEP Accommodations vs. Modifications
IEP Accommodations, Modifications and Supports/Services: All three of those are a huge concern for parents. I know this because it’s often one of the first sections you turn to when you are handed a new draft IEP.
What are Supplementary Aids and Services on the IEP?
From IDEA: Supplementary aids and services means aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate in accordance with §§300.114 through 300.116.
Supplementary aids and services means aids, services and other supports to enable students with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled students to the maximum extent appropriate in the least restrictive environment. Examples include a note taker; assignment of paraprofessional staff (or a one-to-one teacher aide or assistant) or study guide outlines of key concepts.
Program modifications may be used to describe a change in the curriculum or measurement of learning. A modification should not alter content knowledge. Instead, it creates a learning environment for that specific student. Modifying a curriculum means changing the core program by using a parallel curriculum that does not include all grade-level standards. It should be the same content and the same quality, it may not be the same quantity.
Some examples of these changes are:
- Different location where instruction is delivered
- Timelines and scheduling different from gen ed peers (taking 8 weeks to cover a topic instead of 4)
- lower-level reading and worksheets
- simplified language and vocab
- Modified grading
- The student learns the same theme/unit but is provided with different tasks and expectations.
Deciding on a Modified Curriculum
Parents–read this paragraph several times. Because here’s the thing, and it’s a problem that I see repeatedly. Do you think that with the proper supports and services, that your child CAN learn the same curriculum as their peers? Then I would continue to push for that. Too often, I see schools offering to modify the curriculum instead of adding more needed supports and services. Many schools would prefer to reduce expectations instead of presuming competence. Despite whatever learning disability your child has, they have a right to perform at their maximum level of achievement.
If you think that your child needs modifications, you should take your time and research it properly. Modifying curriculum may put your child on an alternate diploma track. You should ask all of these questions during IEP meetings. Or, have a separate meeting with just an administrator (likely someone who handles curriculum or pupil services) to explain what your state requires for diplomas and what alternates are available.
Obviously the decision whether or not to pursue a high school diploma is a serious one. You should also read your state’s Dept of Ed website regarding this.
Alternately, you could possibly choose a modified curriculum and your school district just “passes him through” and gives your child a diploma. Then, they could find themselves in college or vocational training and be unprepared. I have a podcast episode about this concept, and I interviewed an expert in post-secondary opportunities for our kids.
IEP Accommodations are adjustments to the environment, instruction or materials that allow a student with a disability to access the content or complete assigned tasks. Accommodations do not alter what is being taught. Examples include instructional materials in an alternative format such as large print or Braille, fewer items on each page or extra time to complete tasks.
Hopefully, after reading this paragraph and the one above it, it makes more sense. You can also use that link to find literally thousands of accommodation ideas for IEPs. I have it broken down into areas of need, such as anxiety, executive functioning, ADHD, working memory and so on.
Making the Decision-IEP or 504?
Once you understand the differences between these three things, you can better decide if your child needs an IEP or a 504. If your child only needs accommodations, then a 504 is likely appropriate. However, as an advocate, I am finding that 504s are being overused when an IEP is warranted. And the school talks the parent into “trying a 504” instead of evaluating the child. A year or two or more of just accommodations, and without the other services and modifications, the child has fallen further behind.
I’ve also heard some odd secondhand information from parents that 504 Accommodations cannot be put on an IEP. They can. I’m not sure why anyone would want to have to monitor two separate documents. Except for the fact that 504s do not carry procedural safeguards, thus parents have fewer options if they are not followed.
Ok, there you go. IEP Modifications, Accommodations and Supplementary Aids and Services. Hopefully, you have a better understanding.