Accommodations and Modifications: Do you know the difference?

Photo Credit Deposit Photos
Photo Credit Deposit Photos

It can be an overwhelming task to make heads or tails of an IEP. There is a lot of jargon that you may not be familiar with. One of the first steps in decoding an IEP is making sure you understand the difference between Accommodations and Modifications.

The Ontario Ministry of Education document “Accomodations and “Modifications” by Jacki Oxley states, “We Accommodate the teaching/learning process to meet student needs and allow demonstration of grade level expectations which are age/grade appropriate; changes are made to the way the student is taught and assessed. Accommodations set up “equity” so all students can play on a level playing field.  We Modify the curriculum to meet student needs that are substantially different from the prescribed grade level curriculum.”

To paraphrase, accommodations do not alter the provincial curriculum expectations for the grade. ‘Accommodated only’ (AC) is the term used on the IEP form to identify subjects or courses from the Ontario curriculum in which the student requires accommodations alone in order to work towards achieving the regular grade expectations.

The accommodations that the student requires in connection with instruction, assessment, and functioning in the physical environment should be identified and listed separately, as follows:

  • Instructional accommodations – adjustments in teaching strategies required to enable the student to learn and to progress through the curriculum.
  • Environmental accommodations – changes or supports in the physical environment of the classroom and/or the school.
  • Assessment accommodations – adjustments in assessment activities and methods required to enable the student to demonstrate learning.

Modifications involve developing expectations that reflect knowledge and skills required in the curriculum for a different grade level and/or increasing or decreasing the number and/or complexity of the regular grade level curriculum expectations. This means that the learning outcomes are substantially altered. Changes can be applied at every learning stage, including the delivery, content, or instructional level.  For example, a sixth-grade child with a severe math disability that is not ready to learn fractions and percentages may still be developing basic addition and subtraction skills. The instructional level has changed noticeably and therefore would constitute a modification.

An IEP is a working document; all of the suggested accommodations and modifications in a student’s IEP will be reviewed and reassessed throughout the school year during mandatory meetings.

For more assistance on helping decode your child’s IEP, come to our next workshop, ‘Understanding Learning Exceptionalities and Advocating for Your Child’ on Tuesday, November 25th from 7:00-8:30 at Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space in Toronto, Ontario.

You will have the opportunity to gain further knowledge about:

  • Common learning exceptionalities and learning styles
  • Strategies for working with the school to develop, monitor, and implement Individual Education Plan (IEP) content
  • Accommodations, techniques, and strategies that can be implemented at school and at home
  • Information regarding how to advocate for your child with or without an IEP


Attending the workshop is free for RRLS clients and their children’s teachers. Registration is $25 for non-clients. Please feel free to invite friends and family!

Call 416.925.1225 to register or e-mail 


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