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Both accommodations and modifications help individuals who are struggling in school to gain access to curriculum. In a formal school setting, documentation of a disability and special education paperwork may be required before allowing accommodations or modifications. In a homeschool setting, parents are able to give children what they need regardless of diagnosis.
In an accommodation, the content and standard for the curriculum remains the same. Other means for accessing the curriculum may be added. For example, an individual with a learning disability may be allowed to use a calculator. Large print may be offered to individuals who have a visual impairment. Rather than learning content from reading textbooks, a student may be provided with an audio version. Increased time for assignments or tests and dictating answers are also considered accommodations.
A modification changes the work required. For example, completing fewer math problems than the rest of the class is a modification. Anything that changes the work standard or the work content is a modification.
When should I use accommodations and modifications?
Accommodations are appropriate for any child who has trouble accessing the content. If the child could make progress in the curriculum with the accommodation and they will be limited without an accommodation, then the accommodation should be allowed. Individuals with learning disabilities or ADHD will greatly benefit from accommodations.
Modifications may be appropriate for children who are gifted or have an intellectual disability. Although these two diagnoses are on opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, modifications could greatly benefit both. A gifted individual may need less repetition to learn content. Reducing the number of problems required will also reduce wasted instructional time. Raising content levels (i.e., 4th grade math instead of 2nd grade math) or allowing a child to explore topics that are interesting to him will allow the gifted individual to be challenged at their instructional level rather than be stuck in an assigned grade level.
Children who have an intellectual disability would also benefit from modifications. Modifications will allow the child to access content at their instructional level and move at their own pace.
In summary, accommodations and modifications are both used to give children access to instructional content that may not be otherwise be accessible or appropriate for them. Accommodations provide access to the same content using the same standards. Modifications change either the content or the standards.
For more information, consider reading the following book: