I’ve been in several IEP and 504* meetings lately and it’s got me thinking. One of the things we do in each of those meetings is go through a list of accommodations and modifications. Some of these are very specific – the use of Braille, for example – but many are pretty general – extended time, opportunity to respond orally, frequent breaks, etc.
As I reviewed those general accommodations I realized that these are things that are available to my kiddos. All my kiddos. Pretty much whenever they need them. I don’t care if they have an IEP or a 504, I want to be sure they are able to learn all they can and share all they’ve learned. If that means they need to get up and walk around a bit, that’s fine. If that means they need to talk to me rather than write things down, great. (If the goal is writing, obviously they’ll have to do some writing, but if the goal is sharing their knowledge about maps, they can talk rather than write.)
Mostly I’m happy to realize this. So many of these things are just a part of our classroom I don’t really think about them. (Of course, it took sixteen years to get to that point.) However, when I’m concerned that a child is significantly struggling this can actually be a problem. I’ve been to our Responsive Intervention Team several times this year to discuss different kiddos. One of the things I have to do is create a list of accommodations I’ve provided for that child in order to show that I’ve tried different things. I struggle with this every time. Can I say a student has preferential seating if that’s true for all of them because they choose where to sit based on what they need (lots of space, move to the back of the carpet – need to stand, there’s a tall table for that – need to work alone, go to one of our small tables)? Can I say they get frequent breaks if they all know they can get up and get water or just walk a bit if they need to?
If the accommodations are just a part of our classroom culture, how do I list this for my referral for support? Also, how do I better support these kiddos who are still struggling in spite of this classroom culture (or maybe even because of it)?
*IEPs are Individualized Education Plans, created for students requiring special education support and 504 plans are for students who need accommodations, but not special education support, often students with ADHD or other such challenges.