What should teachers know about accommodations for students with disabilities?

Page 1: Understanding Accommodations


Although most students with disabilities are able to learn in the general education classroom, it’s sometimes the case that the disability gets in the way of their capacity to learn the material or to demonstrate skills. A student with a traumatic brain injury might have difficulty staying focused, just as a student with a learning disability might experience trouble reading. Regardless of such barriers, these students are able to learn the required content. However, in order to succeed in the general education classroom, they might require adaptations: allowable changes in educational environments or practices (i.e., supports or services) that help students overcome the barriers the disability imposes. Adaptations provide them with opportunities to achieve the same outcomes and to obtain the same benefits as students without disabilities. Two types of adaptations are accommodations and modifications




Do not change the expectations for learning

Do not reduce the requirements of the task


Do change the expectations for learning

Do reduce the requirements of the task (e.g., reduce number of items, alternate assignments, lower-level reading assignments)
For students who require more support or adjustments than accommodations provide.


Though educators often confuse the terms accommodations and modifications, the terms should not be used interchangeably. Listen as Margaret McLaughlin discusses the distinction between accommodations and modifications (time: 3:03).  

View Transcript


Margaret J. McLaughlin
Margaret J. McLaughlin, PhD
Professor, Department of Special Education
University of Maryland, College Park

For Your Information

Teachers might believe that, if they are using differentiated instruction or Universal Design for Learning (UDL), they do not need to provide accommodations for students with disabilities. Although these approaches might meet the needs of many, some students with disabilities will require the further support or services that accommodations offer.

For more information on differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning view the following IRIS Modules:


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