Accommodation Breakdown

Accommodation Breakdown: Extended Time

This article was first published 9.22.22 and is being republished today with updates.

It’s one of the most popular articles on the site, but I still continue to learn different ways this accommodation has played out with others. If you have your own input, please provide it in the comments below and/or email me and I’ll look at adding it to the article.

It includes a few different options I wish I’d included previously, as well as a few more pits you’ll want to make sure you avoid.

Accommodation Breakdown: Reduced Load

3.3.21: Article first published. 6.22.23: Article updated.

“Reduced Load” is an accommodation that is wordsmithed like a politician’s speech. It doesn’t matter if your gut reaction to it is good or bad. Either way, you’re left wondering what it really means.

A reduced load is exactly what it sounds like: it is a reduction of the load the student must address.

What’s confusing about that?

Accommodation Breakdown: It’s Not the Student’s Responsibility to Request His or Her Accommodations

It is the responsibility of the school to provide accommodations. It is not the responsibility of the student to request accommodations.

Young students might not know their accommodations, while high school-aged students might be embarrassed to request accommodations in class, where their peers can hear them make the request.

In all age groups, the students might struggle with advocacy skills, which result in the student being afraid to ask for accommodations—or in a student feeling it is useless to ask for accommodations, because the school will still do whatever it wants to do.

Accommodation Breakdown: Clarification of Directions and Expectations

Imagine a teacher assigns a writing project, requiring students to write three paragraphs related to an element on the periodic table.

Imagine one student writes three paragraphs about Chlorine and turns it into the teacher.

Now, imagine the teacher returning the paper back to the student, with red marks noting points taken off and the message, “I expected five sentences per paragraph.”

What happened?

Accommodations Don’t Have a Word Count: Clarity Trumps Word Count When Writing Accommodations

No laws or implementing regulations state accommodations must be written within a specific word count.

However, pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the unique needs of students must be addressed.

In other words: Clarity and ensuring the unique needs of the child are met is more important than word count.

Accommodation Breakdown: Word Prediction Software

Word prediction software is an assistive technology (AT) tool that suggests words as a person types them. If you want your student to use it and/or your student’s IEP or 504 Plan team suggest it, what should be included in the accommodation? How should it be written?

The following is an example of an accommodation written into one student’s IEP:

“Student will respond using word prediction software.”

Seems straightforward, but there are too many holes to allow it to stand.

Accommodation Breakdown: Clearly-Defined Expectations

A teacher asks her students to write a report about a topic of their choice. She states two requirements for the report:

1. The report must be one page in length.

2. The report must focus on a topic she taught in science within the last month.

Did she provide clearly-defined expectations?


The accommodation for clearly-defined expectations should provide exactly what it sound like: clearly-defined expectations.

For the student’s IEP or 504, the accommodation must be written as clearly as it is expected to be implemented.

Accommodation Breakdown: Strategic Seating

File this under “accommodations that shouldn’t go wrong, but end up leaving you paralyzed in jaw-dropping numbness” at the absurdness surrounding incorrect interpretations and/or implementations, or both.

What is Strategic Seating?

It is just what it sounds like—strategic seating. It is a seat in the classroom that is chosen for a specific student, to help address his or her unique needs.

Who knew such a straight forward accommodation could become a nightmare?

Privacy is a Right, NOT an Accommodation

A parent requested the following accommodation after his teachers repeatedly mentioned his Individualized Education Program (IEP) to the class:

“Teachers should not intentionally allow other students to know that XXXXXX has an IEP and receives special education services.”

The parent didn’t understand that privacy is a right, not an accommodation, simply because the privacy violations modeled by the teacher pointed in the opposite direction.

Accommodation Breakdown: The Assignment Notebook (a.k.a. the Most-Changed and Least-Implemented Accommodation)

This is the accommodation that warrants its own evolution chart.

In my experience, it has the dubious honor of being the most-changed, least-followed, and most misunderstood accommodation that I’ve ever seen played out.