How Do You Determine which Accommodations are Best?
One of the best ways we can help level the playing feild for our struggling learners is to ensure that they have appropriate accomodations.
We like to use the example of wearing glasses. Once a child’s family realizes that he/she has trouble with their eyesight, they get glasses. This allows them to see the same as their peers. It doesn’t make the task of seeing easier for them than their peers, it just levels the playing field.
Accommodations work the same way. Depending on your child’s specific breakdowns, accommodations can help level the playing field. It doesn’t make their classwork any easier than that of the other students - it makes it equal.
So how do you know which accommodations are best, and how do you put them in place?
Talking with your child's school team is of paramount importance. You want to be sure that while your child is getting the help they need privately or through school-based intervention, that they are not continuing to fall further behind in the classroom. To read more about getting help from the school, click here.
If necessary, I find it helpful to limit the number of requests to your top two in each domain to be more likely to have consistent follow-through from the school. While they are doing their best to accommodate every student, the reality is that less can be more in some instances.
Accommodations for All Struggling Learners
Often students struggle with the amount of homework they are receiving. Especially if they have sports, extra curricular activities, and/or outside learning support. Some of the key accommodations/modifications we ask parents to advocate for are:
Allow extended time to turn in assignments and on in-class assessments.
Allow for a reduction in the amount of work assigned as homework.
Often students with specific learning disabilities can take 2-3x as long on a single assignment. The goal for homework should be continued practice leading to mastery - not an all night endeavor! Talk to your child's teacher about setting a timer and having your child graded only on the quality of what was completed and not the quantity of what they can produce.
Specific to Reading
Consider the use of audio books or a text to speech app.
Ear reading is one of our favorite recommendations! This will reduce some of the time spent simply trying to decode the words and allow the brain to focus on comprehension. For more information on “ear-reading” click here.
Have the student fill out a graphic organizer or mind-map to support reading comprehension.
For reading comprehension strategies and examples of what these graphic organizers should look like, click here. In this blog, Joan Sedita from ‘Keys to Literacy’ walks you through several of these supports.
Specific to Mathematics
Consider the use of graphic organizers to keep math problems organized.
We do this with page protectors so that the forms can be used over and over, plus writing in a dry erase marker is just so much more fun!
Allow the child to show just one way to complete the problem.
Having to show 5-6 different ways to complete a problem is just torture for some of these students and defeats the purpose of finding a single-way to support each student's learning style. Ask the teacher for permission to stick to one way on homework assignments and assessments. While we recognize district and state assessments may require showing more than one way to complete a problem - our goal is having a successful student that can solve real-world math applications. Not a students that performs well on standardized assessment.
Specific to Writing
Consider the use of assistive technology!
We need to be thoughtful about this accommodation however. Just allowing a student access to a tablet or device does not mean that it will work in every setting or that it's the best use of technology. Often worksheets are the biggest struggle so we need to have a device that can snap a picture of the assignment and allow annotation (writing) directly on the picture. Providing a laptop or "Alphasmart" type device is just not practical for these worksheet type assignments.
Reduce the amount of writing required by providing "skeleton notes" or copies of classroom notes to the student.
These accommodations are a good starting point!
We highly recommend checking our your state department of education for more approved accommodations specific to your child. The Colorado Department of Education accommodations are available here.
Also - we encourage you to think about what the best supports for your child will look like! If there is something that your learning therapist/teacher has suggested that we did not mention, you can still ask for it.