What Are Accommodations?
Students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities benefit from having accommodations that provide equitable access to content and allow students to still exhibit their knowledge and skills. Accommodations are instructional adjustments made to enable students “to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and abilities without lowering learning or performance expectations and without changing what is being measured.”
These accommodations can be provided in how content is accessed (e.g. presentation), how knowledge and skills are demonstrated (e.g. response), how the learner is situated, and how the learning is timed and scheduled.
Dyslexia Accommodations Checklist
Students with dyslexia may have comorbid conditions, which is the presence of a co-occurring learning disability, such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Therefore, we often need to consider not only the accommodations that will help students learn within the context of a reading or writing lesson, but also establish a learning environment that considers the needs of the whole child. Based on research and my personal experiences raising children with neurodiverse needs, the accommodations listed below can benefit students with dyslexia who may or may not have co-occurring learning disabilities.
In addition, most accommodations are best instructional practices for all students. However, many of the accommodations need to be explicitly and intentionally implemented with students with dyslexia that also require adequate practice, repetitive instruction, and consistent follow-up for successful results. We also have a downloadable PDF version for you to print or share.
- Publicly Display Schedule and Routines – Students benefit from knowing clear schedules and having classroom routines explicitly stated and visible in the classroom.
- Special Seating – Students can be placed near the front of the room or near the teacher’s desk so that there is less distraction when content is presented. Students also benefit from sitting next to a student with higher reading ability or a student that can assist in class routines.
- Noise Canceling Headphones – If class noise is a source of distraction, providing noise canceling headphones (if available) help some students concentrate on tasks better.
- Separate Testing Room – Students can be provided a testing environment in a separate room that may lower students’ anxiety or that allows for extended time without distraction from the rest of the group.
Time and Schedule
- Extra time – Students benefit from having extended time when taking assessments or completing assignments, particularly as students may have different processing speeds.
- Brain breaks – Allow students to have periodic brain breaks so that students can optimize their concentration while learning.
- Planner – Encourage students to keep an academic planner to keep track of daily and weekly assignments and pace their learning when managing projects with different deadlines.
- Multi-Pocket Folder – As students begin to juggle multiple subjects, having one folder with multiple pockets that organize each subject separately but in one tidy folder helps manage the number of papers and handouts going back and forth from school.
- Self-Monitoring Checklist – Keeping a checklist of what needs to be completed allows students to monitor their progress and keep a systematic method of accountability for their assignments.
General Instructional Supports
- Pre-Teach New Concepts and Vocabulary – Explicitly cover new vocabulary words and concepts that require background knowledge prior to having students read the texts.
- Graphic Organizers – Have students use graphic organizers that highlight the important parts of a text they are reading or that organize their thoughts as a pre-writing activity.
- Visual or Audio Support Class Notes – Taking notes effectively relies on fluency in handwriting or keyboarding skills, but having information presented and supplied through visual and auditory representations helps reinforce and retain the content.
- Review Directions – Ensure that students understand what is being asked. They may struggle to understand the task at hand due to long or multistep directions, so clarifying what the students need to do ensures that they can complete the rest of the assignment independently.
- Break Up Assignments into Smaller Steps – Breaking down the assignment into smaller steps or chunks makes it more manageable for the students to complete.
- Additional Practice – Mastery of a skill may take additional practice for students with dyslexia, so providing ample practice on the same skills covered in class, whether completed in or away from school, is beneficial.
- Audiobooks – Provide options for independent reading that have audiobooks or eBooks so that students access the same content across content-area subjects.
- Text-to-Speech Software – Allow students’ devices to have a text reader or a text-to-speech software capability so that all digital content can be read aloud.
- Electronic Dictionary – Encourage students to access an electronic dictionary so difficult words can be properly pronounced and students can understand the meaning while reading.
- Digital Annotation Tools – Have students highlight or post notes on text while they are reading.
- Reading Buddy – During reading instruction, thoughtfully pair up students of higher reading ability with students with dyslexia so that students can hear modeled reading. Having mixed age reading buddies after school or as an intervention can be helpful as well.
- Reading Ruler – These are rulers that contain a transparent strip allowing students to focus on just a single line of text. Reading rulers allow students not to lose their place and stay focused on the words they are reading, line by line. Any hard-edged ruler or paper can also work, as the purpose is to draw students’ attention to the text, one line at a time.
Writing and Spelling Supports
- Keyboarding – Students with dyslexia may have persistent difficulties with handwriting, and writing longer responses by hand often make students lose their train of thought as they expend their energy on the physical act of writing. Having students become efficient at keyboarding and providing an electronic form of the assignments allows students to better focus on the task.
- Spell Checks – Spelling is often a source of difficulty, and the usage of spell checks help students concentrate on the flow of their writing rather than on their mechanics.
- Grammar Checks – Grammar checks allow students to formulate their sentences correctly so they can focus on their main purpose for writing.
- Speech-to-Text Software - Speech-to-text software allows students to get their thoughts on paper efficiently in order to formulate longer writing responses into a polished final piece.
Modifications or Accommodations
It is important to note that modifications are different from accommodations provided to students. Modifications, as the word suggests, change the learning content or reduce the performance expectation to some degree. For example, educators can make modifications to homework assignments that require fewer questions needing to be answered or shortening the amount of text that needs to be read. On the other hand, accommodations have the same content requirements but can be completed through methods as noted above. Accommodations can be covered under 504 plans, and modifications as well as accommodations can be addressed through Individual Education Plans (IEPs). In order to assess which path is best for the student, a conference with the educator, caregiver, and other instructional school support members is essential.
Ultimately, accommodations aim to remove any barriers to students’ learning and provide equitable access so that all students can thrive and succeed.
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