The goal of an independent education plan (IEP) is to help children with disabilities learn and succeed in school. The different strategies outlined in the IEP often include modifications and accommodations that meet the child’s individual needs.
Although the terms “modification” and “accommodation” may seem interchangeable in everyday terms, they are two very different concepts in special education and IEPs. In other words, they are not interchangeable at all. Since California parents have the right to help develop their child’s IEP, it is critical for them to understand the difference between these two elements.
How are they different?
Both accommodations and modifications are some of the most critical components of a child’s IEP. They are the tools that help students achieve their IEP goals, and they are designed to help students overcome barriers they may face in their learning.
The differences between the two boil down to these distinctions:
- Accommodations: Accommodations change how a child learns the general education material in school. With accommodations, the child must still learn the same information as their peers, as well as meet the same standards and expectations. However, the ways the child obtains that information and executes their knowledge may be different. For example, a child with ADHD or dyslexia might have the same test as the rest of the class, but they have accommodations to take it in a testing room and have a longer period of time to complete it.
- Modifications: Meanwhile, modifications change what a child learns. Modifications to the curriculum might have a child learning different material, completing different homework assignments or projects as well as focusing on different overall goals compared to their classmates. A common example might be a child with a developmental disability obtaining modifications in their physical education classes. It may not be physically possible for them to run a mile with their classmates, so the IEP would include modifications that fit the child’s needs and abilities.
Parents understand their child’s needs best, and a thorough understanding of the child’s needs informs exactly what accommodations or modifications they will require in school. Therefore, understanding the nuances of these terms can help parents prepare for IEP meetings and help them craft the IEP that works best for their children.