Modification: Specially Designed Instruction Which Changes Content

Modification creates appropriate academic expectations. Getty Images


Modification in an educational program is changing the program itself. A modification is a form of Specially Designed Instruction. When a program, especially a general education program, is modified, it is changed in terms of goals, expectations, level of performance or content.

A student who is intellectually capable of handling a general education program but may have a reading or math deficit that doesn't impact the students ability to handle Social Studies, Science or perhaps computer content.

   Those students can do well with support should be permitted accommodations, or support in the way in which curriculum is mediated (such as having the text read aloud, or being able to access a recorded text on the computer.) 

Students who have a disability that directly impacts their ability to perform in the general education curriculum should be permitted to have modifications.  Modification actually changes the content that a child is presented.  Children with disabilities that effect their writing ability will have different expectations for their student products than their typical peers.   Children with reading disabilities need to be reading at their instructional level, rather than at "grade level." since IEP goals, although aligned to grade level standards, need to provide measurable goals, such as a rate goal (words per minute) or learning sight vocabulary (such as Dolch Words.


Modification IS NOT SYNONYMOUS with accommodation. A child with an IEP is allowed accommodations and modifications. A child with a 504 plan is only allowed accommodations. Accommodations change the way in which a child meets the demands of a program—perhaps extending the time for completing assignments, or permitting a child with poor fine motor skills to dictate test answers to a teacher’s aid.

Modification would change the actual content of the program—instead of a fourth grader doing multiplication, she might still be mastering regrouping for addition and subtraction.

Both accommodations and modification should be spelled out in the child's IEP in the Specially Designed Instruction section.  They should include the specific locations that they will be received.  Depending on your state law and district policy, you may be allowed to put "on school campus" or "across environments" for those modification or accommodations that will be provided both in the special education setting or the general education classroom.  A list of modifications and accommodations should be provided to every teach who sees the child in his or her classroom, so that they know the modification they should be providing.  It is also important for the special educator to help create the modifications and monitor their application in other classrooms.

Examples: Jeremy will spell correctly words from the first grade text, rather than from the 4th grade speller. This is a modification of the spelling curriculum.

Jeremy will get extra time to turn in class projects, such as book reports.  This is an accommodation, rather than a modification.