When a child needs accommodations to access the standards and the curriculum, the IEP Team must ensure that those accommodations are going to help. “Canned” Accommodations as I call them are blanket accommodations that the school puts into an IEP and may not assist in learning. Beware of the following accommodations, which are often overused and show that the Individualized Education Plan may not actually be Individualized for your child:
Extended Time on Tests: This is the one that is in almost every IEP and 504 that I have read. Typical allotment is time and a half, but can go up to the entire school day. Time and a half means that if the general population is allowed 60 minutes, the student with time and a half receives 90 minutes. Many End of Grade or End of Course Tests can have sections that take up to four hours to complete, so that means the child who receives 50% extended time may have to sit in a classroom for up to six hours. Long breaks in between test sections can invalidate the results. Six hours is a looooooong time, so make sure your child really needs it. Questions to ask the IEP team would be: a) How often does my child use extended time for tests? and b) What is the amount of time being used in classroom settings? If the data shows that the time is necessary, then keep it; if it’s not being used, then get rid of it. If the team doesn’t have an answer for this, then you have a different problem on your hands. That information should be readily available to you.
Small Group Testing: This is fine for classroom testing, but, effective 2018-2019, Georgia expects all students to take the test online. What difference does it make if there are 15 or 50 students in the room? Parents need to remember that if small group is a testing accommodation, then the student is entitled to small group for every test in every subject unless otherwise stated in the Plan. I worked with a student who was a self-talker during tests; she would talk herself through each question, eliminating answers and discussing, out loud, what the best option would be. This little person needed a one on one testing, not small group. She also needed to be able to learn how to internalize the self-talk at some point, so the Team worked on a plan and an IEP Goal for that.
Preferential Seating: Just stating Preferential Seating on an IEP or 504 is not enough. This may mean different things to different people; the accommodation must be specific to the needs of the child. I believe that students should sit where they are most comfortable learning the material. My daughter likes to be in the back; she’s very tall, she moves around a lot, and she’s a nosy nelly, so being in the back of the class will allow her to squirm without distracting others, and she can see what’s going on in the classroom without turning around and staring. The back is the best place for her. Other students need to be close to the board to see notes. Some may need to be next to where the teacher is teaching (which should change throughout the class and from day to day. Some may even need to stand at the desk and do their work.
If these are the only accommodations listed on your child’s IEP, I recommend asking for additional supports, especially if your child is struggling with academics or behavior. I will caution parents to only request accommodations that will assist the child in accessing the curriculum. Don’t copy and paste a list of accommodations and request them; accommodations are to be based on the student’s exceptionality, eligibility, and their psychological assessments. Like Goldilocks, the balance has to be just right. Too many, and everyone is overwhelmed; too few, and your son or daughter may not be as successful as he or she could be with the right accommodations.
If you feel like your child is not getting the accommodations he or she needs, I’d be happy to help.