The function of an IEP is to determine and outline how a child with a disability’s education will differ from that of their non-exceptional peers. For general education teachers, parents, and students, I like to explain that there are two main outcomes for an IEP. First, teams discuss items, such as goals, designed to support the student through their needs. Secondly, teams discuss accommodations which are designed to support the student around their needs. This concept of supporting a child through and around their need helps all members of the team to recognize that they are working to improve the child’s need while concurrently making it possible for them to reach high achievement in other areas.
Danny is your “typical” 14-year-old who loves fishing and dreams one day of owning a fly-tying business. However, he’s not doing so well in school and fights with his mother every morning about going because Danny has a writing disability, so, among other things, he struggles to take notes. Taking poor notes means he’s not doing well on tests and struggles to understand his homework. To find success, all Danny needs is for his IEP team to develop an individualized system of specially designed instruction that would empower him around his needs. Besides, why should Danny’s writing disability cause him to struggle in his social studies classroom?
Fortunately for Danny, his Social Studies teacher identified this challenge and met with the rest of his IEP team. During this meeting, his team decided to implement a few accommodations, including accommodation L6 – Use word-for-word sentence fill-ins to support his ability to take notes in Social Studies class.
As I mentioned in a previous post, “Grab the Hammer” – The Tools to Effective Inclusion, the key to effectively supporting a student past their learning and behavioral needs rests in our ability to utilize appropriate accommodations and modifications individualized to meet their needs. By recognizing that the function of these tools is to empower a child past their learning and behavioral needs, we support students as they work toward high achievement.
- This concept, supporting a student past their learning and behavioral need(s), is simple but powerful! Meet with other teachers (or parents) who share educational responsibility for a child with whom you are familiar. Discuss in detail the child’s educational and behavioral needs. Educational and behavioral needs don’t necessarily mean their “disability” but rather how that disability presents itself while the student is working to learn in a classroom or demonstrating their learning during assessments. Then discuss how the child’s needs are impacting his/her classroom performance. Finally, consider ways to empower them past this need so that they learn and demonstrate their learning without impact from the need.
- For general education teachers, in particular, this concept helps to clarify the purpose of the Specially Designed Instruction portion of the child’s IEP. It may be a significant and missing concept in cases where the general education teacher appears resistant to inclusive practices.
- Accomods by Action Driven Education provides hundreds of detailed accommodations and modifications designed to guide teams from development through implementation.
- Consider how this concept works when the child’s need is in the area of study. In other words, the student is working in Algebra with a mathematics computation need or an English class while reading below grade level. Frequently, you are still able to empower a child past their learning needs with accommodations. However, in some cases, it may also require the use of modifications as well.
- Consider this example to get you started: Think of the upper elementary expectation of learning to multiply fractions with unlike denominators. What if the child hasn’t memorized most of their multiplication tables. Frequently schools may elect to use accommodation C11 – Allow the use of a calculator, but the general expectation is that students not use one. An alternative option would be to utilize accommodation C20 – Reduce math calculations to include only specified facts. In this case, the student would be expected to work with fractions that include denominators of 2, 3, 5, and 10 because those are the tables the child has memorized. In this way, the child is learning the grade-level curriculum (multiply mixed numbers with unlike denominators) without the use of a calculator. This is a great example of achieving grade-level standards while working to overcome a disability.