Transcript: Martha Thurlow, PhD

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Martha Thurlow discusses the importance of understanding accommodations and how they should be used to give students with disabilities the same opportunities to master content standards as their non-disabled peers (time: 4:27).

Narrator: This podcast is brought to you by the IRIS Center, a national center funded by the Office of Special Education Programs.

Martha Thurlow on accommodations for students with disabilities. Martha Thurlow discusses the importance of understanding accommodations and how they should be used to give students with disabilities the same opportunities to master content standards as their non-disabled peers.

Narrator: Dr. Thurlow, we’re reading a lot of different terms in the literature: adaptations, accommodations, modifications. We see some of the more-recent literature where they’re clarifying those terms, but there still seems to be some confusion in the field about what all those terms are. Can you clarify those?

Martha Thurlow: Well, I can say that the language of accommodations and all the related terms is really confusing. In part, that’s because it has changed over time. The way we talk about these terms has changed over time. If you were paying a lot of attention to IDEA and the language in IDEA, you would’ve seen in the early years that the terms accommodations and modifications were used interchangeably until the 2004 reauthorization, when IDEA used accommodations pretty much without using the term modifications interchangeably with it. And if you look at another law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, you see that it only uses the term accommodations and then modifies it with other terms, like accommodations that produce valid results or accommodations that invalidate the test. So the use of the terms has been evolving over time, in addition to that people use different terms to mean some of the same things and some different things, so there are words like alternatives, adaptations, alterations, modifications. People have very specific things they mean when they use those terms. So the bottom line, again, is that we just, we need to be very careful when we use any of the language around these words that we’ve identified, always defining what we mean, because my listener may be thinking something different when I use one of those terms.

Narrator: During the IEP process, where are accommodations documented on the IEP forms?

Martha Thurlow: Documentation of accommodations on IEPs can vary by state. Some states have specific IEP forms that need to be used. Some have recommended forms, and others don’t have those at all. As we’ve thought about documenting accommodations, we identified three areas where they could be addressed. One is consideration of special factors, where communication and assistive technology supports are considered. That would be one place where it could be appropriate to document accommodations. Another is under supplementary aids and services, where we think about what is needed in regular education classrooms or other settings to allow students with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent. So that’s another place. And then, of course, we get to the assessments, and the participation in assessment section is an obvious place where that can be documented. Increasingly in some of the IEP forms I’ve seen, they have made an attempt to note instructional accommodations as well as assessment accommodations, and there’s a good reason for that. They want to be looking at some consistency between those two.

Narrator: Thank you for listening to this episode of the IRIS Center podcast. For more information about the IRIS Center and its resources, visit us at www.iriscenter.com

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