Chances are, if you're reading this, your child could benefit from some accommodations at school to help him or her perform better and be happier.
There are 3 levels of accommodations:
- Informal. These are the ones your teacher does without any prompting or requirement.
- 504 plan. These are agreed upon with the school and implementation is up to each teacher individually. The teacher is not legally required to do the accommodations and can change how they implement them at any time.
- IEP plan. These are formally agreed upon between the parents and the school and every teacher in the school is legally required to implement them and cannot change the implementation without written agreement from the parent.
The rule of thumb is that if your child needs accommodations, especially in middle and high school, get an IEP, if possible. With a 504 plan, you'll need to negotiate with each teacher individually and track their implementation separately - and start all over again every year. With an IEP plan, once it's in place, every teacher has to follow it automatically, year after year, unless you agree to a change in writing.
You guessed it, IEPs can be hard to get, especially if your kid is doing ok academically. But definitely try for one. It's worth it.
Whether you are doing an informal, 504, or IEP plan, what do you ask for?
Every kid's needs are different but here's a good starting list of ideas. Print out this list and bring it with you at your next meeting with the school. Add to it anything else you can think of that could help your child.
In the Classroom
Give preferential seating away from distractions and near positive role models
Careful partner matching for group projects
Ensure roles are clearly delineated for group tasks
Implement a reward system for attention (stickers, reading time, helper time)
Frequent check-ins to increase focus
Do not embarrass the child when prompting
Use a discreet gesture to tell the child to refocus their attention
Extra support for transitions and work initiation
Allow use of a wiggle seat, fidgets, and a stress ball
Assign tasks that allow for movement
Accept late work without penalty
Help with planning
Encourage the child to review and edit their work
Give responsibilities in the class that highlight his or her strengths (handing out work, managing the projector)
Write assignments on the board early in the day and check that the child has copied them down.
Provide visual aids where possible
Provide a clear rubric of expectations for assignments, outlines, and scaffolding.
Allow the child to photograph the board or use a scanning app
Email parents promptly if the child is falling behind
Individual pull-out support daily with a resource specialist or teacher with special education credentials, with a focus on task initiation, inattention, working memory, organization, time management, and test preparation. In this session, the child can organize assignments, take lecture notes, practice study skills, and finish unfinished work.
Provide teacher lecture notes, powerpoint presentations, and exam study guides
Review the child's planner on a daily basis to support assignment tracking
Allow extra time to complete in-class work and/or allow him to complete it at home
Provide digital versions or extra copies of all school books, including novels and textbooks for use at home
Allow online submission of assignments
Accept late work up to 2 weeks without penalty
Encourage the child to type all assignments with spell check and grammar check enabled
Give assistance with planning and editing writing assignments
Do not mark skipped items as incorrect. Give the child the opportunity to complete them
Give points for showing his work (eg. math problems)
Give 50% extended time on exams, tests, quizzes, and standardized tests to ensure the test his measuring the child's knowledge, not the rate at which they answer questions.
Use the extended time before the text, rather than after it
Give option to child to take the test in a small, quiet setting
Remind the child to read instructions thoroughly, work slowly and carefully, and check his work before submitting it
Prompt the child to write her name on every page
Prompt the child to complete any omitted sections
Allow the child to type all essay portions of tests instead of writing them
Help the child clean out their desk and backpack once a week to minimize distractions and reduce lost papers
Create separate binders and notebooks for completed work, homework, and projects
Teachers and parents should communicate frequently about the child's progress and stress level
Consider reducing number of assignments or length of assignments as long as the child can demonstrate mastery of the content (eg. do only every other problem)
If the child is doing homework in an after-school setting away from home, ensure she has a quiet designated area to do the work, away from distractions
Provide support planning and organizing for larger projects and test preparation
Allow short, structured breaks throughout the homework period
Spend a set amount of time on homework, regardless of whether the work is completed or not