Learning disabilities is a broad category which can be broken down into specific learning disabilities which affect a student’s ability in math, reading, writing, spelling, and organizational skills. When writing a student’s IEP, or Individualized Education Program, the team determines accommodations that will help the student be successful in his or her classes. Accommodations are not designed to give the student an advantage over the nondisabled students in the classroom, but should “level the playing field.” This is one way that accommodations are frequently mistaken with modifications. Accommodations should not change the content of what the student is responsible for learning.
There are several main categories in which accommodations are divided into: scheduling, timing, response, setting, and presentation.
Examples of accommodations that deal with the scheduling of testing for students with learning disabilities are: allowing the student to take a test at a particular time of the day and breaking the testing session into parts. When taking standardized tests required by many states, it is difficult for a student with a learning disability to sit for hours at a time working on one test.
Some students with learning disabilities require extended time to complete tests. For lengthy tests, allowing the student to have frequent breaks can be helpful, particularly if the student tends to get overwhelmed or frustrated when presented with lengthy tests or assignments.
These accommodations deal with how a student responds or transmits his or her knowledge to the teacher. Students with writing or spelling learning disabilities could benefit from accommodations such as being allowed to respond orally or into a tape recorder or allowing the student to respond on a computer/word processor or dictated to a scribe. Some students have trouble marking answers on a bubble sheet. Students such as these might find being able to mark answers directly on a testing sheet helpful.
Where a student is seated in the room or the actual test setting can be an issue for students with learning disabilities. One commonly used accommodation that deals with setting for instruction or testing is proximity seating near a teacher or away from distractions. High traffic areas of the room, such as near the pencil sharpener or door can be a very distracting place for a student to sit. Other setting accommodations include small group testing or taking tests in another room, such as a resource room or library.
The way that information is presented to the student is another area where accommodations are typically needed. Some examples of such accommodations are clarification of directions or breaking down instructions into smaller steps, large print books or worksheets, written instructions, or verbal instructions. Reducing the amount of material that appears on one page (without omitting any information) is another helpful accommodation.