Many of us grew up in traditional schools where we were graded based on how well we were able to keep up with the lessons. It didn’t matter what you liked, what you were good at, or what you were challenged with. Everyone was expected to know and learn the same things at the same time. If you had trouble in a certain subject area or lesson, it was up to you to figure out how you were going to catch up with the lesson. Yes, our teachers would ask us at the end of the lesson, “are there any questions?” But did we really maximize this opportunity to have our questions clarified by our teachers? Maybe in private, perhaps after class, but it was honestly a little embarrassing to admit to your whole class that you didn’t understand the lesson so we just kept our questions to ourselves.
Individualized Educational Plan
Fortunately for both parents and students today, there are more schools now that are focused on each student’s abilities and areas for improvement instead of expecting everyone to follow the same standard. Progressive schools often have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for each student.
In Headway School for Giftedness (HSG), the IEP is made by each class adviser in collaboration with the other subject mentors. The first month of the school year is dedicated to making observations of all the students. The IEP covers the different developmental domains such as socioemotional, motor and self-help, language and communication, and cognitive or general ability. The teacher notes each student’s priority needs in each domain, and all the student’s teachers will work on improving all of these throughout the school year. From these needs, teachers are also able to make recommendations such as the need for academic tutorials, group social skills training (GSST), or even the need to have a shadow teacher.
While it is not required for admission, additional documents such as a complete psychoeducational assessment, a developmental pediatrician (DevPed) assessment, or progress reports from speech or occupational therapists are provided to the school so that the advisers can take these into account when developing the IEP. The complete psychoeducational assessment is most useful as it breaks down the child’s current abilities in each subject area. An assessment from the DevPed may tell us if the child has special needs such as autism or perhaps a developmental delay or a learning disability.
Accommodations and Modifications
Knowing whether a child has a diagnosed condition is in no way used to discriminate against the child, but rather, to prepare all teachers to better be able to provide the appropriate activities and employ the appropriate approach. This is called providing accommodations or modifications based on a child’s specific learning needs.
Accommodations are used to help a student learn the material or answer the activity without changing anything about the content of the lesson. A few examples may be providing a test paper with larger print, providing verbal and visual cues or prompts regarding directions and staying on task, allowing frequent rest breaks, preferential seating, or not deducting points for spelling errors or sloppy handwriting. Even with accommodations, there is no difference in what the children are learning.
Modifications, on the other hand, change the content of the lesson or the material. This may be providing a different set of vocabulary words that are simpler or providing easier reading material. Allowing a student to submit a project instead of a written report or providing a word bank of choices for answers to test questions are also modifications
Collaboration is often emphasized in HSG and this means that apart from having all subject teachers involved in making the IEP, all those who have a hand in educating and forming the child—parents, developmental pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and tutor, among others—are also encouraged to weigh in on the IEP.
A case conference serves as the perfect avenue to discuss the strengths and needs contained in the IEP so that everyone is aware of the child’s goals for the year. This also gives the other stakeholders a chance to voice out other goals they feel should be included in the IEP so that everyone can start working on those as well. A case conference puts everyone on the same page with regards to the child’s education and formation so that conflicts in approaches and techniques across the different settings—home, school, or therapy—may be avoided.
A case conference may be requested by the parent, the teacher, or the school administration when the need arises at any time of the school year. This also implies that the IEP may be revised during the school year if there is a need for the program to be adjusted.
At the end of the school year, the teachers create a progress report based on the IEP made at the beginning of the school year. It’s a shorter version of a narrative report where the teacher makes notes or shares anecdotes about each item in the IEP that demonstrates how much was achieved within the school year. By providing notes and not solely a letter grade, the stakeholders for the next school year know exactly where to pick up from. This allows for continuous intervention throughout the child’s school years and the next grade level teachers will already have a clear picture of the child’s strengths and needs and therefore, know how to address them.
Our hope in HSG is that by employing individualized programming, we also cultivate an environment where the students themselves know that their inquiries are welcome and that their needs are provided for. When children feel that their differences are celebrated, it may be just what they need to thrive.
Kessler, E. (n.d.). Examples of Accommodations & Modifications.
Retrieved from https://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/the-abcs-of-ieps/examples-of-accommodations-modifications/
Lee, A. M. I. (2019, October 17). Accommodations: What They Are and How They Work.
Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/accommodations-what-they-are-and-how-they-work?_ul=1*1ldtgq1*domain_userid*YW1wLWo0OEduS3BfVlBSRC1aX3dUR0lBblE.
Lee, A. M. I. (2019, October 17). Modifications: What You Need to Know.
Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/modifications-what-you-need-to-know?_ul=1*16ltqi4*domain_userid*YW1wLWo0OEduS3BfVlBSRC1aX3dUR0lBblE.
The Understood Team. (2020, March 5). The Difference Between Accommodations and Modifications.
Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/the-difference-between-accommodations-and-modifications
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