Accommodations & Modifications:What’s the Difference?

July 29, 2012

by Sandra Rief 

From: The ADHD Book of Lists (Rief, 2003) and The Dyslexia Checklist (Rief & Stern, 2010)


The terms “adaptations”, “accommodations”, and “modifications” can be confusing. First, let’s clarify the meanings.


Adaptations are any adjustments in the curriculum, instructional components, environmental elements, or requirements or expectations of the student. Adaptations are part of what teachers do to meet the needs of diverse learners. A good teacher attempts to differentiate instruction and make adjustments to enable all students to succeed. The purpose of adaptations is to increase a student’s academic achievement and social, emotional, and behavioral functioning. Adaptations in the general education curriculum, intended in federal laws to protect the rights of students with disabilities (IDEA and Section 504), are changes permissible to allow the student equal opportunity to access, results, and benefits in the least restrictive setting. Adaptations may involve adjustments or changes in the following areas:

Adaptations include accommodations and modifications.


Accommodations are adaptations that do not fundamentally change the performance standards, instructional level, or content of what the student is expected to learn. The curricular content and expectations for performance and mastery are the same as for other students in the class or grade. Accommodations are provisions that enable a student to

Accommodations typically include adaptations or adjustments such as


Modifications are adaptations that do alter or change in some way what the student is learning (the content or part of the curriculum). They also change to some degree the performance standards—the expectations for that student compared with what is required of his or her peers in the same classroom or grade.

Examples of modifications include

Be aware

For students with disabilities, necessary accommodations and modifications are educational rights, not favors granted by teachers or school staff. It is generally recommended that accommodations be tried whenever possible before more significant modifications in curriculum or work expectations are made. Many students with disabilities require both accommodations and modifications. For example, students with significant reading disabilities need to build reading competency through instruction and materials at an appropriate level in order to strengthen and practice skills, as well as compensatory methods, tools, and supports to enable them to access grade-level curriculum.



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