Some students with disabilities require accommodations or modifications to their educational program in order to participate in the general curriculum and be successful in school. Each child with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome is different and has their own unique needs. Parents will meet with school personnel in an ARD/IEP meeting to determine what accommodations and modifications should be implemented to best assist their child. It is imperative that parents and educators understand the difference between the two.
For many students with Asperger’s Syndrome, accommodations will be needed to access the curriculum and remain in the least restrictive environment. Accommodations (the HOW) can be made for any student. Students do not need to have a 504 plan or an IEP.
Accommodations do not alter what the student is expected to learn but rather make learning accessible to the student.
They allow the student to demonstrate what they know without being impeded by their disability. Students are required to complete the same assignment or test as other students, but with a change in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation. They do not alter in any way what the assignment or test measures.
Accommodations can be referred to as good teaching practices. Here are some common accommodations made for students with Asperger’s, high functioning autism, and other related disabilities.
Have a set routine.
Does your child require a visual schedule? Does he/she need prior notice of any changes in their schedule? Does your child require transitions between classrooms before or after the other students?
Extended time to complete the assignment or test.
How much time does your child require to complete the assignment or test?
Physical arrangement of the classroom and preferential seating.
Where can your child sit so that the teacher is readily accessible? Where can he/she sit so that distractions, both auditory and visual, are minimized? Who will be the best classmate for your child to sit next to? Does your child require a quiet area to retreat in times of high stimulation or when overwhelmed?
Varying of activities.
This emphasizes varied teaching approaches such as visual, auditory and/or multi-sensory. Does your child need other types of visual supports such as graphic organizers, an outline of the content or chapter, graph paper for math assignments, use of manipulatives, demonstration or modeling, individual or small group instruction, etc.?
Allowing for different ways of responding.
Does he/she need to respond verbally? Does your son or daughter need to complete assignments or take tests using a computer or other device?
Format of materials is changed to meet the students’ needs.
Does he/she require the materials be highlighted? Does your child need note taking assistance? Does your son or daughter need a calculator, computer or word processor? Does he/she need larger print? Does the test need to be multiple choice rather that fill in the blank?
What motivates your child? What interests your son or daughter that might be used as a form of reinforcement?
Varying forms of instruction delivery.
Does your child require study guides or outlines of the material? Will your son or daughter need after school tutoring? Do directions need to be provided in small sequential steps?
Examples of Accommodations
Using a graphic organizer to outline the assignment
Using graph paper for math assignments
If accommodations do not provide sufficient support, modifications (the WHAT) can be selected and implemented to allow the student access to the general education curriculum. Modifications are generally changes made in what is being taught or expected from the student. They alter the content knowledge expectations as well as assessment administration practices. A modification is a change in the course of study, the standards, test preparation, location, timing, scheduling, expectations, student response and/or other attribute which provides access to the general curriculum.
Some students with Asperger’s may require modifications to the course content in order to make adequate yearly progress. Here are some common modifications for students with Asperger’s or high functioning autism and other related disabilities.
- Materials are adapted. Vocabulary, concepts and principles are simplified. Does your child require texts be simplified in order to comprehend the content? Does your child require individualized materials?
- Assignments are changed using lower reading levels. Does your child require that classwork and homework be changed using text at their reading level to comprehend the material?
- Testing adaptations are used. Does your child require tests/assessments of reduced length? Do the answer choices need to be reduced? Do the questions and answer choices need to be reworded in simpler language?
- Reduction of classwork or homework. Does your child require shortened assignments?
- Using specialized/alternative curricula written at a lower level. Does your son/daughter require an alternative curriculum that is modified in order to understand the concepts?
- Grading is subject to different standards. Does your child need grades to be changed to pass/fail or based on work completion?
Examples of Modifications
Example of an alternate curriculum: Unique Learning Systems
Example of a modified assignment: reduced answer options
Selecting and assessing the effectiveness of accommodations and modifications needs to be an ongoing process. Required accommodations and modifications need to be written into a student’s IEP or section 504 Plan if the student is a student in special education. Both should be selected to fit the student’s individual needs.
Changes should be made as often as needed, with the involvement of the student, parents and educators. For maximum success, it is essential that the chosen accommodations and modifications address the students’ specific areas of need and facilitate the demonstration of skill and knowledge.
by Sandra E. Jacobs M.A., ATC, BCBA
Any Baby Can Autism Education Specialist