Around the world, the number of students who have diagnosed learning disabilities continues to increase, and this means that schools need to do more to educate students who face these types of challenges. When teaching students who have learning disabilities, the type of accommodation needed for each student varies based on the type and severity of the learning disability. These can range from allowing more time on assignments to having an entirely individualized curriculum to help students to achieve their maximum potential with the help of special education instructor or a learning aid.

There are many different types of accommodations, and each student needs an advocate to ensure that he or she receives the accommodations appropriate to them.

At the primary and secondary levels, schools create individualized education programs (IEPs) that explain how each student will be educated and the goals for that student’s education. In the United States, because every student is entitled to a free public education, these services are part of the public school experience, but the type of special education assistance provided varies greatly by school district due to the decentralized nature of American education. Since their first implementation a few decades ago, IEPs have been controversial, especially because some parents feel that they do not receive as much support from the school for their child as they feel they deserve. In some instances, this has led to lawsuits in which parents have attempted to force districts to provide more support and enhanced special education to ensure that their child received the benefits of the American promise of a free and full public education for every American child.

When a student has a disability, the educator must first work with that student’s family and medical team to determine the nature and the extent of the disability. In conjunction with doctors and family members, the school will create an IEP and begin working with the student to help that student achieve his or her maximum potential. In recent years, the trend has been to move away from segregating students with learning disabilities in special education classrooms and educating these students in regular classrooms to help those students build confidence and more a part of the social life of their peers. The inclusion of students in general education has had great success regarding helping students to fit in better among their peers.

But accommodations for disabilities do not end with graduation from high school. Even at the college and university level, students can receive disability accommodations, though in many cases these are less extensive than those provided at the primary and secondary level. At the college and university levels, schools have offices devoted to disability services, and they work with students to help accommodate the challenges posed by disabilities. In many cases, this involves granting extra time on assignments or providing learning resources in different formats.

As more education moves to the internet, this can be especially important since students with some types of reading difficulties, such as dyslexia, can have a hard time with online textbooks and would benefit from using a screen reader or an audio book to consume course resources in a different and more accessible format.

When it comes to disabilities, the most important thing is to adapt any or all efforts to the individual. What this means is that one size won’t fit all for disabilities. Every student is an individual, and this means that the students need to have an education that accommodates their unique challenges and needs. This starts first with the parents, who need to act as the advocates for their children, and forcefully work for their children’s needs by intervening to ensure that doctors, therapists, and schools are working together to help ensure that their children are being educated to their greatest potential. Responsibility also falls on the schools to provide the resources that students need to achieve their best results. To do so, they must have the funding to provide the very best in special education. Ultimately, it comes down to taxpayers, voters, and government officials to allocate sufficient funding to ensure that every student has the same equal opportunity to receive an education and achieve their dreams.

Here is a brief video that explains the difference between accommodations and modifications, and how each one impacts your child’s experience in the classroom. You can learn more about special education and school services at understood.org.