Developing 504 Classroom Accommodation Plans
Blazer, Bonita, Teaching Exceptional Children
Although both 504 and IDEA legislation address students with attention, learning, and other difficulties, 504 has become the more global vehicle for accommodating children with unique needs, including ADHD or other health impairments. In contrast, IDEA is based on well-defined criteria that include a statistical discrepancy between aptitude and achievement, and require a Child Study Team to determine eligibility before developing an individualized education program (IEP). Thus, the joint policy memorandum using Section 504 has become pivotal in providing classroom supports to students who are not otherwise eligible for special education services under IDEA.
"Teachers Tips" Form a Framework for Developing Classroom Adjustments
As a trainer of teachers, I have conducted more than 100 workshops on classroom accommodations to meet the special needs of students with attention and learning differences. As part of these workshops, teachers share strategies they use to help students with ADHD feel more successful in school. The teachers generally form small groups and write down their favorite strategy on an index card, to be later compiled and presented to the large group. The "Teacher Tips" presented in this article are the compilation of the hundreds of strategies teachers have so generously and enthusiastically shared during these workshops. By simple processes of sorting, counting, and grouping, three categories of classroom accommodations emerged as distinctive: physical, instructional, and behavioral (see Figure 1).
A Three-Step Process for Creating a Classroom Accommodation Plan
Step 1. Parent and Student Education, Collaboration, and Agreement
As an educational therapist, I begin to develop an accommodation plan by discussing options with parents and the student. I explain to both the parents and student the role of classroom modifications in creating positive school and learning experiences. I find that students as young as 5 years old can participate in conversations about "making school easier."
To start the process, I often use a compiled list of strategies providing examples of possible classroom adjustments (see Figure 1). The goal of this initial collaboration is to present a framework and process for developing a personalized accommodation plan. Specifically, I first meet with parents, then with the student, with two goals in mind:
To educate them about the relationship of classroom accommodations to positive academic and social outcomes.
To help them choose adjustments that they believe will help classroom performance.
With students of all ages, I use a variety of hands-on activities such as comic strips, webs, letters, poems, posters, charts and before-and-after drawings. I start with a blank piece of drawing paper entitled "What my teacher can do to help me learn" and ask the student to draw something that might help him or her in the classroom (see Figures 2 and 3).
After this activity, the student then lists the classroom accommodations that may be helpful, on the first draft of a "Certificate of Accommodations" (see Figure 4). This activity provides a quick and easy tool to initiate the classroom accommodation planning process with the student. Having the student fill in the certificate encourages him or her to think carefully about which adjustments seem most important, and promotes a sense of student entitlement to learning accommodations. Teachers can also use this form as a springboard for dialogue with the student about making school and learning easier through the use of classroom accommodations.
Later on in the process, once the family has obtained official endorsement from teachers and other school personnel, a revised Certificate is signed by student, parent, teachers, and principal. The student then keeps the Certificate handy in his or her book bag, to be used as a reminder if needed (e.g., during a test when a request for extra time might be appropriate). …