Instructional Strategies

Different instructional techniques are used for some students with special educational needs. Instructional strategies are classified as being either accommodations or modifications.

An accommodation is a reasonable adjustment to teaching practices so that the student learns the same material, but in a format that is accessible to the student. Accommodations may be classified by whether they change the presentation, response, setting, or scheduling. For example, the school may accommodate a student with visual impairments by providing a large-print textbook; this is a presentation accommodation.

A modification changes or adapts the material to make it simpler. Modifications may change what is learned, how difficult the material is, what level of mastery the student is expected to achieve, whether and how the student is assessed, or any another aspect of the curriculum. For example, the school may modify a reading assignment for a student with reading difficulties by substituting a shorter, easier book. A student may receive both accommodations and modifications.

Examples of modifications
    Skipping subjects: Students may be taught less information than typical students, skipping over material that the school deems inappropriate for the student's abilities or less important than other subjects. For example, students whose fine motor skills are weak may be taught to print block letters, but not cursive handwriting.

    Simplified assignments: Students may read the same literature as their peers but have a simpler version, for example Shakespeare with both the original text and a modern paraphrase available.

    Shorter assignments: Students may do shorter homework assignments or take shorter, more concentrated tests, e.g. 10 math problems instead of 30.

    Extra aids: If students have deficiencies in working memory, a list of vocabulary words, called a word bank, can be provided during tests, to reduce lack of recall and increase chances of comprehension. Students might use a calculator when other students are not.

    Extended time: Students with lower processing speed may benefit from extended time in assignments and/or tests in order to comprehend questions, recall information, and synthesize knowledge.


Examples of accommodations

    Response accommodations: Typing homework assignments rather than hand-writing them (considered a modification if the subject is learning to write by hand). Having someone else write down answers given verbally.

    Presentation accommodations: Listening to audio books rather than reading printed books. Agencies like Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic in America and RNIB National Library Service in the UK offer a variety of titles on tape and CD. These may be used as substitutes for the text, or as supplements intended to bolster the students' reading fluency and phonetic skills. Similar options include designating a person to read text to the student, or providing text to speech software. (Considered a modification if the purpose of the assignment is reading skills acquisition). Designating a person to take notes during lectures. Using a talking calculator rather than one with only a visual display.

    Setting accommodations: Taking a test in a quieter room. Moving the class to a room that is physically accessible, e.g., on the first floor of a building or near an elevator. Arranging seating assignments to benefit the student, e.g., by sitting at the front of the classroom.

    Scheduling accommodations: Students may be given rest breaks or extended time on tests (may be considered a modification, if speed is a factor in the test).

All developed countries permit or require some degree of accommodation for students with special needs, and special provisions are usually made in examinations which take place at the end of formal schooling.

In addition to how the student is taught the academic curriculum, schools may provide non-academic services to the student. These are intended ultimately to increase the student's personal and academic abilities. Related services include developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a student with special needs and includes speech and language pathology, audiology, psychological services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, medical services as defined by regulations, parent counseling and training, school health services, school social work, assistive technology services, other appropriate developmental or corrective support services, appropriate access to recreation and other appropriate support services. In some countries, most related services are provided by the schools; in others, they are provided by the normal healthcare and social services systems.

As an example, students who have autistic spectrum disorders, poor impulse control, or other behavioral challenges may learn self-management techniques, be kept closely on a comfortingly predictable schedule, or given extra cues to signal activities.

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