The Difference Between an Accommodation and a Modification

Students with autism or other special needs, who have an Individual Education Plan (I.E.P) or 504 plan, will have a section in the plan detailing accommodations and/or modifications. The student’s IEP or 504 team will determine what these accommodation or modifications will be and it is the responsibility of the classroom teacher (and other members of the team) to follow through on the plan in class. To learn more about an IEP check out my link What is an IEP?

The Law:

Students with IEPs qualify under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Public Law No. 94-142

  • Laws require that students who have special needs have equal access to educational opportunities.
  • Equal access to general education curriculum
  • Schools are required to make reasonable accommodations for students identified as having a disability

Students with 504 plans: Qualify under the section 504 Rehabilitation Act 1973 (PL 93-112)

“No otherwise qualified handicapped individual…shall, solely by reason of his/her handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”

Parents: when you are in the process of developing your child’s IEP or 504 plan, it will be valuable for you to know the difference between an accommodation or modification.

The big difference is that accommodations change how a student learns the material and a modification changes what a student is taught or expected to learn.

Here are some examples:


Accommodation: More time on a test

Modification: Fewer questions on the test


Accommodation: Listen to the book as an audiobook

Modification: Reading the same subject at a lower grade level

Final thoughts:

There are so many great accommodations that can change the “how”:

Preserve the original task as much as possible; change as little as possible: Consider changing:

  • how the material is presented to the student: (manipulative, hands on, graphic organizers)
  • how the environment is set up (preferential seating, small groups)
  • how the student is able to respond (present materials orally vs. in writing)
  • how the time is scheduled (more time is given on a test or to complete an assignment)

Modifications provide a huge change in what a student is learning and to required to demonstrate. Changes may be made in the instructional level, the content or the performance criteria. Modifications are determined based on individual needs and abilities.

Knowing the difference between accommodations and modifications will go a long way in creating and then implementing the necessary steps to provide an inclusive classroom for all students and their unique needs.




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