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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What are Reasonable Accommodations, and What are the Different Options?

As a learning specialist and educational therapist parents continually ask me about “reasonable accommodations.” They often want to know what this term means and how they can get a list of the various options. Please note that, offering a definitive list of reasonable accommodations for students with learning disabilities is a difficult thing to do, as adaptations must be tailored to address the specific deficits of each student.  

What is a Reasonable Accommodation? 
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 both use the term “reasonable accommodation” to represent the modifications or adaptations resulting in equal access or improved accessibility to buildings, programs, and academics. They provide changes to traditional means so that students’ disabilities do not impede the learning process.  For example, if a student has deficits in fine motor control and their penmanship is labored and illegible, a reasonable accommodation may provide a copy of the teacher’s notes.  Consequently, this student’s disability will not get in the way of learning lecture-based content. 

Who can Initiate Reasonable Accommodations?
Any student with a qualified disability or their legal guardian/parent can request a meeting that can result in reasonable accommodations. Please note that the disability must be documented by the school or an outside source and the results must be presented at the meeting.

What are Some Common Reasonable Accommodations?
Here is a list of general options.  However, it will be your school's special education committee that decides which options will provide the necessary accommodations.
•     Provide preferential seating where visual and auditory distractions are minimized.
•     Supply a copy of the teacher’s or another student’s notes.
•     Offer a scribe for classroom writing assignments and testing situations.
•     Allow the use a tape recorder or a Smart Pen.
•     Offer books on tape through organizations such as Learning Alley or Bookshare.
•     Supply a reader for testing situations.
•     Grant time and a half or double testing time.
•     Offer testing in a distraction free location.
•     Permit the use of a calculator during testing.
•     Provide assistive technology such as speech to text, word prediction, and text to speech software
•     Provide extended time for homework assignments.
•     Offer modified in-class and homework assignments.
•     Provide handouts and homework assignments with fewer problems on each page.
•     Reduce amount of homework.
•     Offer no penalty for incorrect spelling on classroom writing assignments and tests.
•     Allow the student to write directly on the test and avoid scan-trons.
•     Provide a computer with a word processor and spell check for written assignments and tests. 
•     Simplify and reword questions on language loaded assignments and tests.
•     Break projects into organized, manageable activities with clear expectations and deadlines.
•     Provide a foreign language substitution, waiver or exemption.
•     Offer reminders to write down and turn in assignments.
•     Check for understanding by asking the student repeat back what they heard.
•     Provide short breaks when needed.

If you are interested in pursuing reasonable accommodations for a student at your local school district, you will have to contact them to learn about  their step-by-step procedure.  Make sure to put all requests in writing and also indicate that you wish to tape record the meeting.   This blog post is intended to provide an overview of reasonable accommodations and is not legal advice. 

If you have any thoughts, ideas, comments, or stories please leave a comment below.



Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz
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