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About IEPs: The IEP Road Map | FAQs | Parent Guidance | Abbreviations | Dispute Resolution | Accommodations | Related Services

What are accommodations?

Accommodations allow disabled students to complete the same tests and assignments as their nondisabled peers, but with changes in timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response, and/or presentation. Students receiving accommodations are still expected to demonstrate the same level of mastery over the same content as their nondisabled peers. Accommodations are intended to minimize or even eliminate the effects of the student’s disability. In essence, they level the playing field so a disabled student is given equal footing with nondisabled peers.

Who is eligible to receive accommodations?

Accommodations are available to a student who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan. Accommodations are driven by the individual needs of a student and are determined by the IEP team. Whenever possible, it is important to ask the student which accommodations would be helpful, and to include them in the discussion. 

What are some accommodations that have been helpful to autistic students?

Sensory Processing

    • Provide sensory strategies (to help student maintain appropriate level of arousal) 
    • Kinesthetic seating (seating arrangements that allow students to have their movement needs met, such as wobble chairs)
    • Opportunities for movement breaks (which could be provided through meaningful tasks such as taking documents/messages, etc. from the classroom to another location in the school, such as the principal’s office)
    • Organic opportunities for heavy work (i.e., assign child classroom jobs such as moving the Chromebook charging cart, carrying the basket of classmates’ lunches to the cafeteria at lunch, etc.)
    • Provide student with fidgets/chewing gum/other aid to meet sensory needs
    • Noise-cancelling headphones
    • Access to a calming corner or similar location 

    Behavioral Supports

      • Visual supports (words, pictures, etc.) to make rules explicit
      • Daily visual reinforcement program (such as Zones of Regulation) for self-monitoring (for example, student colors in sections on their daily schedule/behavior contract with the color of the “zone” they were in during that time period)
      • Provide immediate and frequent feedback (in whatever mode of communication works for the student)
      • Token board/token economy, in which students earn tokens, such as stickers, bingo chips, or pictures to attach to a board. Once they've earned the required amount of tokens, they can trade them in for a reward. 
      • First/Then visual (picture of task student is expected to finish coupled with a picture of preferred activity earned for task completion)
      • Menu of coping strategies (visual depicting strategies student can choose to help them cope with a situation)
      • Prompt hierarchy (emphasizing visual and gestural prompts rather than verbal), a method of fading prompts along the continuum, either from most-to-least or least-to-most.
      • Advance preparation for schedule changes
      • Visual timer


        • Pictures/visuals paired with reading passages
        • Previewing of vocabulary or concepts
        • Multisensory instruction, such as providing manipulatives to reinforce math concepts
        • Check for understanding

        Reading and Written Expression

          • Human reader
          • Audio materials (such as text-to-speech or audiobooks)
          • Word processor (to replace need for handwriting)
          • Speech-to-text software
          • Word prediction software
          • Scribe (someone who writes exactly what the student dictates)
          • Graphic organizer
          • Opportunities for oral rehearsal (talking through answers before writing them down)
          • Editing checklist (list of items to check when editing an assignment to help students revise their work)
          • Word bank (list of vocabulary terms that a student can use in a writing assignment)
          • Sentence starters

          Executive Functioning (Attention, Organization, Work/Study Skills)

          • Have student paraphrase directions
          • Provide task-analysis for multi-step tasks
          • Break down assignments into smaller units
          • Provide copies of teacher notes and outlines
          • Visual/picture schedule
          • Visual supports for daily routines
          • Monitor use of agenda book or digital application for tracking assignments (for secondary students)
          • Provide structured time for organization of materials
          • Preferential seating (near point of instruction/away from distractions/near model peer)
          • Provide manipulatives and/or sensory activities to promote listening and focus
          • Rubrics or exemplars (to demonstrate assignment expectations)
          • Strategies to initiate and sustain attention
          • Checklists for task/routine completion
          • Monitor independent work (to make sure that student is on task, keeping up with peers, not getting stuck, etc.)
          • Extra time on tests and assignments
          • Frequent breaks

            Social Interaction

              • Peer buddy system (match elementary school student with nondisabled peers for portions of unstructured times such as recess, lunch, etc.)
              • Social skills instruction (how this is implemented will depend on the student’s particular academic setting. Ideally, social skills instruction should be provided by a special education teacher, but sometimes school counselors and/or psychologists also provide this service. Social skills may be taught individually or in a group setting, depending on the school and the student.)
              • Social stories (usually for elementary school students; these are typically written by special education teachers or psychologists, ideally with input from the student)
              • Adult facilitation of peer interactions during structured and/or unstructured activities (elementary school, possibly middle school)
              • Thoughtful peer grouping for collaborative/group work (elementary and middle school)
              • Assigned role in collaborative/group work (elementary and middle school)

              Emotional and Self-Regulation

              • “Flash pass” or break card to request break (student may initially need instruction in how to use this accommodation)
              • Access to a trusted adult for processing of emotions/problem-solving
              • Access to a designated quiet/safe space (either in classroom or school building)
              • Reduced number of problems for homework/classwork (allow student to demonstrate concept mastery without requiring repetition of the same type of problem)
              • Allow access to snacks (if that is something from which your child would benefit)

              Where can I find out more about accommodations?

              You can find a list of many standard accommodations on pages 19–28 of this sample Maryland IEPThe examples listed in the Maryland IEP are meant to be representative and not exhaustive. Your child’s IEP team may develop other accommodations to meet the unique needs of your child. For more information on accommodations, see the "Maryland Assessment, Accessibility, & Accommodations Policy Manual.”

              Are modifications the same as accommodations?

              Modifications are not the same as accommodations. Modifications change what a student is taught or what knowledge a student is expected to demonstrate. In contrast, accommodations are designed simply to level the playing field -- meaning that accommodations enable students receiving special education to achieve the same level of mastery as students without that support. Students receiving special education through an IEP are eligible for accommodations and modifications. A 504 plan offers only accommodations, not modifications.

              Some minor modifications — such as reducing the number of questions on homework assignments, or breaking assignments into smaller units — may not impact a student’s ability to master grade-level content. More significant modifications may alter what a student is expected to learn, which may mean that your child will not receive credit toward a high school diploma. Significant modifications could include modified content, modified grading systems, and modified assessments, such as open-book exams or substituting multiple choice tests for fill-in-the-blank ones. Situations differ, so check with your IEP team about the impact of any modifications.

              Where will my child’s accommodations and/or modifications be documented?

              Students who are found eligible for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act should receive a 504 Accommodation Plan from their school. The 504 plan outlines the accommodations that the student will need in order to receive a “free and appropriate public education." You can learn more about how MCPS implements 504 plans here.

              If your child receives special education through an IEP in Maryland, their accommodations and modifications will be documented in Section III of the IEP: Special Considerations and Accommodations.

              What are related services?

              Students with an IEP may also receive "related services" in addition to accommodations. These services might include counseling services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech/language therapy. For a list of related services, see page 32 of this sample IEP.  A 504 plan does not offer related services.  Read more about related services on our Related Services page.

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