Some students with learning disabilities can do as well as their peers with a little support from all of us. Most of these students benefit from accommodations and some benefit from modification of the typical curriculum. Accommodations allow students with learning differences or disabilities equal access to instructions. It enables teachers to alter the environment, curriculum format, and provide equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks. Accommodations do not alter what is being taught by instructors. The student needing the accommodation is graded the same way as the other students. Examples of accommodations include: Taped lecture, sign language, separate room to take the test, big prints, etc.
Modifications are made for students with disabilities who are unable to comprehend all the content an instructor is teaching. For example, assignments might be reduced in number and modified significantly for a student with cognitive impairments that limit his/her ability to understand the content in general education class. For any student with learning differences to succeed the accommodation or modification must be at the appropriate level for that individual student’s need. Several factors affect how the accommodations or modifications are implemented. These factors are:
- Misconception or lack of understanding of the student’s disability.
- Poorly written accommodation or modification steps or plans.
- Limited training of the staff involved with the student needing the support.
- Limited check and balances or accountability.
Regardless of what a teacher’s training is, a little sensitivity and a willingness to understand a student’s learning differences goes a long way. I have come across teachers with limited knowledge about a child’s learning differences who have provided inclusive, supportive programs for their students. What stood out about these teachers was their interest in their student’s learning needs, their ability to connect with the students and their willingness to ask the right questions. The first step is understanding that you have an essential role. Also noteworthy is your willingness and flexibility in implementing the accommodations or modifications. It is crucial that you see the student first, not his or her disability. Just remember that with the right structure and the appropriate educational accommodation or modification your student will meet the expected standard.
Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.