Why It's Important to Understand and Advocate Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexic Students

accomodations dyslexia Mar 04, 2022

If you are in the world of dyslexia, then understanding and advocating for accommodations is part of the journey. Accommodations are essential for our children because they act as a bridge to access the curriculum.

Things like extra time, not marking off for spelling errors outside of a final draft, and not requiring reading aloud in front of peers are examples of some accommodations. While many people may not fully understand accommodations or how they work in the school and work setting, it is vital to address that they are tools and in no way unfair. Accommodations are not cheating or a crutch but a tool our students use to level the academic playing field and ensure equal learning access.

Accommodations change how students access information and show their knowledge, skills, and abilities. They act as a bridge to the curriculum. One common misunderstanding is that accommodations change the curriculum expectations and standards, which is not true.
If you are changing the curriculum standards and expectations, that is a modification and differs from accommodations. Accommodations instead change HOW a person can access their learning and complete tasks, not the learning objective or performance expectations.
Accommodation = provides a different path or access to the curriculum while maintaining the expected standards and performance.
Modification = changes what a student learns.

Classroom Accommodations

Depending on how accommodations are used or viewed in a class, they can create a negative stigma and make a child feel that their learning difference has been pointed out to everyone.
How we introduce and address accommodations to our students and within our classrooms is key for building and preserving self-esteem and self-advocacy skills. Here are some ways to help remove the stigma or shame that may accompany using accommodations.
  • Introduce the accommodation tool for the whole class to use. Why? By bringing awareness of different tools available to students and teaching them how and when to access them, you are addressing the metacognitive skills needed in planning, reflecting, and creating a plan, skills we want all students to have! This eliminates singling out students for using accommodations. In addition, many of the accommodation tools, such as graphic organizers and clarifying understanding, are considered best practices for all students.
  • We want students to have multiple ways to solve problems and access learning. Let all students practice using the accommodation tool and make it accessible for all students; what a great way to scaffold your instruction and support all students! Tools provide this for all learners.
  • Model when, how, and why to use each accommodation. By showing students what tools to use, and when, we are giving them the necessary skills to guide their own learning, to become reflective about their learning process, and dive into metacognitive skills. Win-win!
  • Practice, reflect, practice. We know that without practice, we don't learn things well. Practice makes permanent! This is true for reflecting on how we are using our tools! We need to be mindful of helping students bridge their knowledge to practice. Are we providing enough opportunities to use an accommodation? Are we including the use of the accommodation within our lessons? Have we built in reflection time and conversations to determine how the accommodation has helped or needs to be refined?

Think about accommodations this way...

We use different tools to accomplish various tasks. We wouldn't use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail (or we could, but it wouldn't be the most efficient use of the tool, our time, or create a well-done project).
Sometimes, we can accomplish a task without a tool, but that doesn't mean throwing our tools away! We keep them and then use our understanding of what we need to determine when best to access them to achieve a goal. The same goes for accommodations. Kids need to have those tools/accommodations in their toolbox so that they can access them when they need them.
In addition, students need ample opportunities to use the tools, to determine when and why they best assist them, and how to determine this and access it independently. A great deal of metacognition goes into teaching and applying accommodations properly.
Teach students how to use their accommodations effectively. If we place accommodations on a "list" but don't teach those tools and applications, it is not beneficial to our children. We must be the stewards of this for our children. We must see the benefits of taking the time to weave these tools into our lessons, bring awareness to how they are helping and why, and then guide students in this reflective process of thinking about what tools helped and why.
All of this is part of the journey for those who learn differently, and we can guide students to know themselves as learners and begin to self-advocate for the tools that best assist them. 🦋
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