You Asked! Question 15

Download a PDF version of this You Asked question and answer here.

Q: What is the difference between an accommodation and a modification?  What are some examples that may be helpful to a student with dyslexia?

A:   Accommodations ensure equal access to a student with a learning disability.  They serve to “level the playing field” between students with learning disabilities and their peers. Accommodations do not change the skills being taught or tested.  An example of an accommodation would be “testing done in a quiet, separate environment”.

Providing accommodations allows students with dyslexia access to grade level curriculum and also provides the opportunity for a dyslexic student to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by assessing their abilities not their disabilities.

Modifications changes the nature of the task or target skills being taught or tested. An example would be “providing a calculator on a test of math facts”.

A detailed article about accommodations/modifications including some examples can be found HERE.

Accommodations/Modifications can be provided in the classroom, for assessment purposes, and outside the classroom for homework assignments. They should be agreed upon by the IEP or Section 504 team and should be well-documented.  Accommodations/Modifications should be reviewed at least annually as student needs and classroom environment change. It may be helpful to discuss agreed-upon accommodations/modifications with each teacher to ensure consistent application.

In drafting accommodations/modifications, it is important to be as specific as possible.  For example, if “extra time on assignments” is listed, what does this mean?  Should student be provided 150% more time than other students or does student get an extra day to turn in homework?  Watch out for subjective language such as “reduced assignments, as needed”.  Who determines what is needed?  That determination can vary widely between teachers.  Spend the time needed with IEP or Section 504 team to make sure accommodations are clear and well-defined so that any teacher could read them and know what was intended.

Assistive technology (A.T.) can be an effective way to provide needed accommodations. A sample letter from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund requesting an A.T. Assessment can be found HERE.

For students without an IEP or Section 504, the school may be willing to provide informal accommodations.  Parents can request a Student Study Team (or SST) meeting to discuss possible informal accommodations.  Note:  Schools are not legally required to provide informal accommodations. Examples of informal accommodations can be found HERE.

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Leading Special Education Expert Pete Wright to Empower Parents and Professionals at Napa Conference

Famous Dyslexic, Pete Wright, is coming to California! Don’t miss this Supreme Court Winning Attorney and U.S. Leading Expert on Special Education Law on May 19, 2017 in Yountville, CA.

Pre-registration is Required.

Registration closes Friday, April 28th.

The Wrightslaw Special Education Law & Advocacy Conference will be held at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater on Friday, May 19, 2017. Conference hours are 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. The cost to attend is $190 for individuals and $235 for professionals. An early bird rate of $165 or $210, respectively, is available until April 21, 2017.

Pre-registration by April 28 is required. An optional boxed lunch will be offered for $15. Each attendee will receive three of Peter Wright’s books, valued at $62.85. Professional attendees will qualify for CLE and/or CEU credit. Register online at

The conference agenda covers a variety of special education and advocacy topics, including: special needs assessments and evaluations; determining progress vs. regression; age equivalencies; individualized education plans (IEPs); strategies for parents advocating for their special needs child, including developing a long-term game plan and coping with conflict and crisis; and much more. It will answer such questions as:

  • What rights do parents have in a child’s education?
  • Can the school do that?
  • How do I get more Speech, OT services?
  • What can I do for a child who’s fallen behind in Reading / Math?
  • Can the school say they don’t have the money to provide accommodations or resources?
  • Should the school pay for outside evaluations?
  • What is the school required by law to provide a child?
  • Can the school suspend my child for “behavior problems”?
  • How is my child really doing in school?
  • Does a child qualify for mainstreaming or inclusion (and what’s the difference)?
  • Can the school say a child needs medication?