As a special education teacher, you are tasked with the important job of providing accommodations to your students so that they can learn and succeed in the classroom. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to accommodations, as each student has unique needs. However, there are some common accommodations that can be used for many students with special needs.
Here are some common classroom accommodations for elementary students receiving special education services.
1. Preferential Seating
Many times it's assumed that preferential seating refers to being seated in close proximity to the teacher or a member of support staff. This definitely may be the case, but it doesn't have to be. Preferred seating accommodations may be near the door, away from a window or another potential distraction, in the front row – or maybe it's the back row. Preferential seating is determined by wherever the child learns best.
Another option is offering seating choice to all students in the classroom. Flexible seating is a great way to provide students with the physical comfort they need to focus on their work. Allowing students to sit in different types of chairs or on floor cushions can help them stay focused and engaged in the lesson. One important note: flexible seating doesn't always mean sofa cusions and rocking chairs, but instead focuses on the student's choice. Your student may try out novelty seating a few times and then decide it's easier to sit at a table. In other hands, don't throw out the traditional seating!
2. Extended Time
The IEP team may decide that the child will benefit from extra time to complete an assigment or test. It's important to note that some school districts may indicate exactly what extended time entails – usually it's “time and a half,” so if one hour is provided to complete an assessment, extended time would be up to 90 minutes. In the inclusion classroom setting, this often looked like pulling a small group to a quiet area to finish the test without distractions. Extended time is often considered a testing accommodation, but may also apply to any work completed in a timeframe within the general education curriculum.
3. Visual Aids
Visual aids such as pictures, graphs, and charts can be very helpful for students benefit from extra support to understand oral directions or written instructions. Using visual aids can help students follow along with the lesson and better retain information. As a special educator, I often drew boxes around math word problems so it's clear where one problem ends and the next begins. It may also look like using extra white space on a student paper, folding over a paper to only focus on one section at a time, or using a highlighter to pull out key words. This is such a great skill to model for students of all ages who may benefit from a visual cue when working on homework assignments or other independent projects.
4. Preteaching Vocabulary
Vocabulary words can be tricky for some students, so preteaching vocabulary before a lesson can be very beneficial. This involves introducing new vocabulary words before they are used in the lesson and providing definitions or examples of how the words will be used.
5. Frequent and/or Multiple Breaks
IF we benefit from taking short breaks throughout the busy day, imagine how much it helps young students! Frequent breaks can be general education teachers or the special educator (often also the case managers). My recommendation is to provide students with a break BEFORE they really need it. Then it can be as easy as a quick change of scenery to get a drink, take a walk, or participate in a more structured break, like a reinforcing activity (reward). As far as time management, In my experience, taking multiple breaks actually SAVES time in the long run versus having a difficult time maintaining focus and needing a much longer (and possibly less peaceful) break.
These are just a few of the many accommodation options available to special education teachers. By using accommodations in the classroom, you can ensure that all of your students have equal access to the curriculum and an opportunity to succeed academically.
Are you looking for a more extensive accommodations list?
This mini-kit of intervention strategies includes suggestions for academics (early math, literacy, and writing), behavior support, and testing accommodations.