If you are thinking about asking for school accommodations for your child, you should know that first and foremost, school accommodations will not change what your child learns but can change how your child learns. The expectations for your child are not lowered, and the subject matter does not change. Accommodations will remove obstacles to learning and increase your child’s ability to fully access the curriculum without changing the goals and benchmarks your child is working towards. Your child may learn differently than same-aged peers. Accommodations provide alternative ways for your child to learn and show mastery of the same material other students study. Think of accommodations as “leveling the playing field.”

Accommodations may include extra time to finish assignments, allowing a child to take tests in a separate room to reduce distractions, extra time to complete tests, seating a child at a desk in close proximity to the teacher or away from distractions, providing teacher notes, the teacher checking in with a child to make sure the child understands the material and directions, allowing frequent breaks, and allowing the use of assisted technology.

Accommodations must address your child’s unique needs. They must be understood by the school staff who works with your child. These accommodations may change over time as your child masters the material. Some accommodations may no longer be needed. This is why they must be reviewed at least once a year.

Older students should be allowed to play a significant role in choosing their accommodations. If a student is part of the decision-making process and provides input, it is more likely the student will be open to using the accommodations. A student may need to advocate for the accommodations to be implemented. For younger children, advocacy must be done by the parents.

Just because the accommodations are listed in the IEP document, does not ensure they are being used. Teachers are extremely busy with upward of 20 or more students in class. While not intentionally, accommodations may not be implemented. This is why parents must continually monitor their use.

Remember, school accommodations do not reduce expectations for academic success. They provide access to academics. They should not alter what your child is learning but alter how your child learns.

Janet Lee, the founder of Pathways Educational Consulting, has extensive experience serving as an advocate and navigator for parents of children with special needs in the Montgomery Country, Maryland public school system. Janet Lee prepares parents for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) meetings and assists at these meetings in order to secure accommodations and when necessary, appropriate school placements. She has particular expertise in Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 Plans.