Accommodating Students with Learning Differences
By Rovanna Bawden
Every learner is different, and every learner has a specific way in which they learn. As a diverse school with a diverse student population, a number of our students require accommodations to support learning at some point during their time at school. Accommodations are available to all students if the teacher determines that it is beneficial to the students in optimizing their learning potential.
So what are “accommodations,” and why are they so integral to a teacher’s professional toolkit of strategies?
Accommodations are strategies that help to remove barriers and provide students with equal access to learning. Accommodations do not change what a student is learning. Instead, they change how a student learns. For skills that require accommodation, teachers apply the accommodation and hold the student to the grade-level expectation. Most importantly, accommodations do not change what a student is expected to know or learn or lower expectations.
In the classroom environment, a teacher may decide to target a specific barrier to a student's learning process by offering specific accommodations. Some of the more general accommodations a teacher may offer could be through varying the way information is presented. For example, if an individual student has difficulty with reading words and print, the teacher may choose to have them listen to audiobooks or ask them to listen to a podcast of the selected material. An accommodation that would benefit a student who does not like to write or struggles to write a lot in a short time is to provide a laptop for them. Often, an accommodation used is to change the setting, moving from the larger classroom space to a quiet space. This kind of accommodation benefits a student that exhibits a lack of focus or is easily distracted in the classroom. Teachers may also utilize added time for tasks and tests or extended due dates for assignments to accommodate a student who has organizational or processing difficulties.
The concept of teachers using accommodations for their students, when they feel it is required, is not new. The teacher uses professional judgement and the knowledge gained from working with an individual student when deciding on the appropriate accommodation that is required.
As an extension of the accommodations that teachers may implement for students at school, it is of great benefit when parents also look to understand and provide the climate for support in the home environment. By observing when your child is successful with his or her learning, you can also provide the specific accommodations needed to create the conditions for learning. An in-depth conversation with your child will also reveal how they think they learn best. Spend time to understand what makes learning hard for them. Is it paying attention, is it able to hold information in their short term memory? Is it having access to too many social media devices? Eventually, as parents, you too can assist in providing the accommodations required to help your child succeed as a learner.