accommodations vs. modifications

Once you’ve become part of the special education world, you find yourself suddenly enmeshed in countless buzz phrases and acronyms. When you’re already overwhelmed with assuring that your child’s needs are met, this can be an extra layer that many find difficult. So that you can focus on what really matters, we’re here to help navigate this new language you suddenly need to learn.

The first piece of lingo I’d like to discuss is accommodations versus modifications. Although these seem very similar, they have different meanings.


When accommodations are used, the material taught is not changed. The student still learns the same content as their classmates. However, the student obtains that content in a different way. This is the how.


  • Extra time: The student is given the same assignment or assessment, but is given extra time to complete it
  • Sign Language Interpretation: The student is given the same material, but requires (and is given) interpretation of that material in sign language
  • Large Print Materials: The student is given the same material, but in larger or bolder font


When modifications are used, the material taught is changed, usually to make it easier and more accessible to a child with learning differences. This is the what.


  • Reduced Work: Student is required only to complete a certain (smaller) number of problems on a test or access less of the material to demonstrate mastery
  • Pass/Fail Grades: Student is not graded on the traditional grading scale to demonstrate mastery, but rather on a simple pass/fail; they will not be required to learn as much as their peers in order to get a “good” grade.

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