hammer and bent nails

The Context: A Child Dependent Upon an Adaptation

“I need to go have my test read to me, Mrs. Zinn,” Sophie said as she walked toward the door. Mrs. Zinn knows that this accommodation is in Sophie’s IEP, but it feels like she relies too heavily upon it. She’s in eleventh grade now and has had her tests read to her since the fourth grade. Mrs. Zinn knows that Sophie doesn’t seem to engage with instruction, and when asked about it, Sophie always tells her that it doesn’t matter because she passes her tests, so it’s ok. It seems like she could be doing more on her own.

The Story: Find the Right Tool for the Job

For my twelfth birthday, my parents bought me a small red toolbox. Inside was a hammer, an adjustable wrench, a tape measure, a pair of pliers, and two screwdrivers. I was so excited to use them that I ran around the house for weeks, looking for things to fix. I tightened the doorknob that rattled, tapped in that nail that stuck out of the door trim, and turned the loose bolt on the lawnmower deck. I was a legit construction worker, and I loved it! As it happened, my father was planning to build a garage that year, so I would get many opportunities to use the tools and learn through practice to be very good with them. One day I bent a nail in the corner, and I couldn’t get the hammer claw over it to pull it out. Dad showed me to use a catclaw tool to pull it out; huh, the hammer wasn’t the best tool for that job. Then, when we were hanging drywall, I was driving in nails, and my dad told me to stop using my hammer and to use his special hammer, which had dimples in the head of it that made a unique pattern in the drywall. Dad explained that the regular hammer didn’t work as well for drywall because that dimple pattern made a good place for the compound to stick. Long story made short, I quickly learned that if I were to become a legit carpenter, I would need more tools. My hammer was ok, and, for the most part, it got the job done. However, as it turned out, there were numerous times when it was not the best tool for the job!

The Point: Use the Right Adaptation

As teachers of students with special needs, we too often reach for the “hammer”. We tend to reuse the same accommodations and modifications repeatedly, even when there are better tools for the job. This isn’t necessarily our fault. In our busy jobs, we tend to do what we know has worked in the past. The problem is that we don’t necessarily see that there’s a better tool, there’s a tool that will empower the student, or that the student has changed and is ready for a different level of support. Accommodations and modifications are the tools for effective inclusion. Like a carpenter, the more tools we know how to use, the more successful we will become at our jobs. Likewise, our students will become more successful.

Be Action Driven: Things To Do

  1. Review your IEP’s. Do they all include the same accommodations and modifications? If so, consider other ways you can meet the student’s needs.
    • Accomods provides development and implementation guidance for hundreds of accommodations and modifications designed to support the student past their needs to reach high achievement expectations.
  2. Consider the following statement: Accommodations and modifications are selected based on the child’s strengths, needs, and degree of need. Think of a child who struggles to read fluently. What accommodations and modifications can you name to support a child with a reading fluency need? How does this list change as you consider the degree of need (a fourth-grader with a reading fluency rate of 25 versus 50 words per minute)? What about a child whose strength includes “enjoys working with peers” versus “works well independently”?
    • Our asynchronous course “Tools For Effective Inclusion” provides a blueprint for how to select a “just-right” adaptation, and Accomods gathers information related to strengths, needs, and degree of need in order to sort and filter through hundreds of accommodations and modifications to prepare a student-specific list of suggested supports for IEP teams to consider.