IEP Planning: Accommodations & Modifications

By Eve Kessler, Esq. with Michele Schneider, MS


Accommodations and modifications are tools used by your child’s IEP team to help level the playing field for kids with learning difficulties • Understanding the differences—along with what the options are— can help ensure that your child’s needs are met at school

The difference between success and failure for students with LD and ADHD often comes down to how effectively the curriculum is adapted to individual needs. Accommodations and modifications are the tools used by the IEP team to achieve that end.


Accommodations allow a student to complete the same tasks as their non-LD peers but with some variation in time, format, setting, and/or presentation. The purpose of an accommodation is to provide a student with equal access to learning and an equal opportunity to show what he knows and what he can do.

Accommodations are divided into four categories:

  • Variations in time: adapting the time allotted for learning, task completion, or testing
  • Variation of input: adapting the way instruction is delivered
  • Variation of output: adapting how a student can respond to instruction
  • Variation of size: adapting the number of items the student is expected to complete

Common examples of accommodations include extended time to complete assignments, provision of notes or outlines, untimed tests, and reduced number of test questions.


Unlike accommodations, which do not change the instructional level, content, or performance criteria, modifications alter one or more of those elements on a given assignment. Modifications are changes in what students are expected to learn, based on their individual abilities.

Examples of modifications include use of alternate books, pass/no pass grading option, reworded questions in simpler language, daily feedback to a student.

Selecting Options
When deciding what accommodations and modifications are appropriate for your child, ask these questions:
  • Can your child participate in the activity in the same way as her peers?
  • If not, can she do the same activity with adapted materials?
  • If not, can she do the same activity with adapted expectations and materials?
  • If not, can she accomplish the goals of the lesson by working with a partner or small group?
  • If not, can she do the same activity with intermittent assistance from an adult?
  • If not, can she do the same activity with direct adult assistance?
  • If not, can she do a different, parallel activity?

Eve Kessler, Esq., a criminal appellate attorney with The Legal Aid Society, NYC, is co-founder of SPED*NET Wilton and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.

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