Special Education: Accommodations, Strategies, and Modifications

Terminology to Know With IEP

Little boys reading in class
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Accommodations, strategies, and modifications are all common terms used in special education. When lesson planning for students with special needs, it's important to remember to make adjustments both when developing lessons and in the classroom environment. This will better help accommodate and challenge each member of your class while setting them up to enjoy and grasp whatever you throw their way.

Terminology Often Used in Special Education: Modifications and More

By keeping special terminology in the forefront of your mind when designing individualized lessons, you will be better prepared for each child and any particular scenarios that you may encounter. Keep in mind that your lesson plans don't always need to be modified, but by keeping your curriculum flexible and individualized to student needs, you may find that students are better able to meet the standards and requirements of your class. For this reason, there are certain approaches that you can employ for certain situations that require it's own terminology. Below are the three terms to know when it comes to lesson planning for special education students.


This refers to the actual teaching supports and services that the student may require to successfully demonstrate learning. Accommodations should not change expectations to the curriculum grade levels. Examples of accommodations include:

  • taped books
  • math charts
  • additional time
  • oral test
  • oral reports
  • preferred seating
  • study carrel
  • amplified system
  • braille writer
  • adapted keyboard
  • specialized software


Strategies refer to skills or techniques used to assist in learning. Strategies are individualized to suit the student learning style and developmental level. There are many different strategies that teachers use to teach and convey information with. Some examples include:

  • highlighting
  • rehearsal
  • color coding
  • memory joggers
  • visual cues
  • number lines
  • alphabet strips
  • keyring sight words
  • flip chart
  • organization/transition cards
  • jello powder, play doe, seed spelling
  • window paint
  • bingo dapper
  • stencils
  • ink stamps


This term refers to changes made to curriculum expectations in order to meet the needs of the student. Modifications are made when the expectations are beyond the students level of ability. Modifications may be minimal or very complex depending on the student performance. Modifications must be clearly acknowledged in the Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a written document that’s developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. Examples of modifications include:

  • second language exemptions
  • withdrawal for specific skills
  • including student in same activity but individualizing the expectations and materials
  • student is involved in same theme/unit but provided different task and expectations

When Developing Your Class

It's important to keep your classes inclusive and use individualized strategies that still allow your students to be a part of the larger classroom. When possible, a special needs student with an IEP should still work with all the other students in the classroom when participating in the activity, even if he has a different learning objective. Remember, when developing and implementing accommodations, strategies and modifications, what works for one student may not work for another. Even then, IEPs should be created through a team effort with the parent and other teachers piping in, and reviewed at least once a year.