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Educators & Students with Learning Disabilities: Accommodation

Useful for elementary and secondary administrators, librarians, classroom teachers, and parents and students with Learning Disabilities

Best Practices for ALL Students

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Best Practices for ALL Students

When working with students with learning differences the following strategies are used by LD teachers--yet these teaching accommodations will benefit most any student.

Teaching Strategies 

Predictable routine, Structured environment

  • Warm-up, "to do," copy homework from board
  • Introduce/preview information in the same manner each new topic
  • Use keywords in lecturing--"first, second," "to summarize," main point, supporting point, concluding point

Reduce verbal language while teaching--the most difficult!

  • Use a slower rate of speech. Really.
  • Enunciate clearly, without exaggeration
  • Use body movements and natural gestures
  • Integrate "wait time" into question asking and presentation of information

Present information in small chunks

  • Allow for breaks--stretching, change topic for 2 minutes
  • Allow time for processing
  • Check for comprehension
  • Review the next day

Reduced noise and distractions

For students needing it (IEPs)--extra time, reader, note-takers, scribe

Ask for feedback from students

  • Too fast? Too slow?
  • Ask each student to anonymously write down/email what they thought the point of the lesson was
  • Then adjust accordingly!

Provide concrete examples

  • Of good essays, good iMovies, good digital presentations, good outlines, good note cards

Teach direct concepts

  • Try not to rely on implication or deduction without explaining it

Teach direct behaviors wanted

  • Avoid sarcasm and explain metaphorical language--the abstract is impossible for some
  • "Stop talking," "Close your laptops," "Take out your note cards," "Log on to NoodleBib"
  • Do not start with "it would be a good idea...," or "you might want to...," or "somebody is talking..."

Encourage and reward students who come for extra help or further clarification

Actively teach note-taking & organizational skills

  • Outline on board, verbalize outline, copy outline--check for copy accuracy
    • Insert information during lecture or film
    • Ask for summary of what the outline means at end of period
  • Repeat (for weeks) until you have them create their own outline
    • Check for their accuracy


Brian Regan "Stupid in School"

Brian Regan's comedy sketch truly reflects what many of our students experience in a typical school classroom, when they are undiagnosed or the teacher is not aware of required modifications and adjustments.

Accommodations & Modifications

Accommodations for Students with LDs

What are accommodations?

Accommodations are alterations in the way tasks are presented that allow children with learning disabilities to complete the same assignment as other students. Accommodations do not alter the content of assignments, give students an unfair advantage or, in the case of assessments, change what a test measures. They do make it possible for students with LD to show what they know without being impeded by their disability.

What are modifications?

Modifications actually do change the target skill or information tested. They will often reduce expectations or affect the content so that what is being tested is fundamentally changed. For LD students we want to keep the same target skills or goals of instruction, but we will accommodation the learning disability by changed the way the information or material is accessed and how knowledge is presented by the student.

How does a child receive accommodations?

After a child has been formally identified with a learning disability, the child or parent may request accommodations for that child's specific needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) states that a child's IEP (Individualized Education Program) team--which both the parent and child are a part of--must decide which accommodations are appropriate for him or her. Any appropriate accommodations should be written into a student's IEP.

Some examples of possible accommodations for an IEP team to consider:

  • Presentation:
    • Provide an audio tape
    • Provide in large print
    • Reduce number of items per page or line
    • Provide a designated reader
    • Present instructions orally
  • Response:
    • Allow for verbal responses
    • Allow for answers to be dictated to a scribe
    • Allow for the use of tape recorder to capture responses
    • Permit responses to be given via computer
    • Permit answers to be recorded directly into test booklet
  • Timing:
    • Allow frequent breaks
    • Extend allotted time for a test
  • Setting:
    • Provide preferential seating
    • Provide special lighting or acoustics
    • Provide a space with minimal distractions
    • Administer a test in small group setting
    • Administer a test in private room or alternative test site
  • Test Scheduling:
    • Administer a test in several timed sessions or over several days
    • Allow sub-tests to be taken in a different order
    • Administer a test as a specific time of day
  • Other:
    • Provide special test preparation
    • Provide on-task/focusing prompts
    • Provide any reasonable accommodation that a student needs that does not fit under the existing categories
Should accommodations have an impact on how assignments are graded?
School assignments and test completed with accommodations should be graded the same way as those completed without accommodations. After all, accommodations are meant to "level the playing field," provide equal and ready access to the task at hand, and are not meant to provide an undue advantage to the user.
What if accommodations don't seem to be helping?
Selecting and monitoring the effectiveness of accommodations should be an ongoing process, and changes (with involvement of students, parents, and educators) should be made as often as needed. The key is to be sure that chosen accommodations address students' specific areas of need and facilitate the demonstration of skill and knowledge.
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) 2005


Instruction Ideas -- DO IT

  • Disabilities
  • Opportunities
  • Internetworking
  • Technology

Accommodations for Students

Accommodation Resources

Movement & Learning

Brain scans

Movement and Learning

In Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition, author Eric Jensen focuses on Movement and Learning in Chapter 4. Anatomical evidence supports the relationship between movement and vision, language, memory, and attention: "Various studies support the relationship between movement and the visual system (Shulman et al., 1997), movement and the language systems (Kim, Ugirbil, & Strick, 1994), movement and memory (Desmond, Gabrielli, Wagner, Ginier, & Glover, 1997), and movement and attention (Courchesne & Allen, 1997). These studies do not suggest that there is movement in those functions. But they suggest a relationship with the cerebellum in such mental processes as predicting, sequencing, ordering, timing, and practicing or rehearsing a task before carrying it out. The cerebellum can make predictive and corrective actions regardless of whether it's dealing with a gross-motor task sequence or a mentally rehearsed task sequence. In fact, the harder the task you ask of students, the greater the cerebellar activity (Ivry, 1997). Taken as a whole, a solid body of evidence shows a strong relationship between motor and cognitive processes."

For students with learning disabilities, "A study by Reynolds and colleagues (2003) found that children with dyslexia were helped by a movement program. Those in the intervention group showed significantly greater improvement in dexterity, reading, verbal fluency, and semantic fluency than did the control group. The exercising group also made substantial gains on national standardized tests of reading, writing, and comprehension in comparison with students in the previous year.'

Some practical suggestions to incorporate movement into lesson plans focus on purposefully integrating movement into everyday learning:

  • Goal setting on the move Students pair up, mime goals; take a short walk while discussing goals.
  • Drama & role plays Daily or weekly role-plays, charades, pantomime key points; one-minute commercial creations
  • Energizers Use the body to create measurements; adapt Simon Says; huge poster mindmaps.
  • Quick games Ball toss games for quick review, vocabulary building, self-disclosure; rewrite lyrics.
  • Cross-laterals Use arm-leg crossover activities to force both brain hemispheres to "talk" to each other (pat head, rub belly).
  • Stretching Incredibly effective as a breather, to get more oxygen, as a group or individually
  • Physical education and recess Fight those budget cuts!