Special Education and IEP accommodations for students with disabilities are a recurring topic in several online teacher groups. Most recently, a teacher posted a list of ‘problems’ plaguing classroom teachers, with one being ‘too many IEPs and accommodations’. My response was short and simple: “Too many IEPs and accommodations? LOL!” Then, I quickly exited the discussion board. As I previously stated: (misconception about) Special Education is a recurring topic. Because this topic appears weekly, with the same ill-informed, finger-pointing mentality, I take it as a mark of ignorance. And not the blissful kind.
Accommodating or Enabling?
So what are accommodations? The short answer: Any method used to make the learning experience more accessible for a particular student. Another way to understand accommodations is to ask: What will this student need to be successful in learning the material? Contrary to popular and misinformed beliefs: Providing students with accommodations does not enable them. On the contrary, carefully thought out accommodations will remove obstacles to accessing and understanding the content.
Although every student has unique needs, some accommodations are beneficial for many of them. For example, providing students with single-sided copies helps those with spatial or attention-related disabilities. This is also helpful for any student with test-taking anxiety. These may sound like insignificant accommodations, but I have witnessed students panic when they realized there were more questions n the back of a paper.
Some other simple, yet extremely helpful accommodations include: use of white space, font 12 point or larger, standard/common font (amp the Dingbat, please), black font, dark color dry erase markers when using the Dry Erase board, etc. Despite these accommodations being standard practice among some veteran Special Education Teachers, moving them into the implementation stage on a larger scale presents a challenge. Unfortunately, there are teachers who believe (and say out loud) one of two things regarding accommodations : (1) if a student needs ‘so many’, then they should not be in a General Education setting; or, (2) if a student is in a General Education setting, then they do not need the accommodations.
This is one of many small battles with which Special Education Teachers contend. In spite of federal guidelines, we invest our energy into ‘educating’ our peers. It is exhausting, but we fight on.