In this issue:
Education Vocabulary: Accommodation vs. Modification
More and more kids with Williams syndrome are accessing and participating in the general education curriculum. We continue to educate the educators on the learning profiles of students with WS, and they are able to implement appropriate accommodations that allow the child to access the curriculum or respond to the curriculum in a different way.
Many times the terms accommodation and modification are used interchangeably. This is wrong - they are two very different things. It is important to understand the difference between an accommodation and a modification.
Accommodations can be very helpful to students. They are adjustments made to help students "access" the curriculum. They do not impact the student’s ability to receive full credit for a class or their eligibility for graduation. Modifications, however, mean that the content of the class has been “significantly” altered in such a way that it impacts the teacher’s ability to grade the student in the same way as other students.
Here is a great explanation from www.washington.edu
The term "accommodation" may be used to describe an alteration of environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks. They allow students with disabilities to pursue a regular course of study. Since accommodations do not alter what is being taught, instructors should be able to implement the same grading scale for students with disabilities as they do for students without disabilities. Examples of accommodations include:
- Sign language interpreters for students who are deaf
- Text-to-speech computer-based systems for students with visual impairments or Dyslexia
- Extended time for students with fine motor limitations, visual impairments, or learning disabilities
- Large-print books and worksheets for students with visual impairments
- Trackballs and alternative keyboards for students who operate a standard mouse and keyboard
The term "modification" may be used to describe a change in the curriculum. Modifications are made for students with disabilities who are unable to comprehend all of the content an instructor is teaching. For example, assignments might be reduced in number and modified significantly for an elementary school student with cognitive impairments that limit his/her ability to understand the content in the general education class in which they are included.
A key point is the “change in the curriculum.” Generally speaking, the change results in a vast reduction in the content - they are completing less than 60% of the regular work or perhaps student in one grade are completing the work that is typical for a lower grade (a student is in 6th grade and working on 4th grade math). It is very common for children with Williams syndrome to be working on a different “grade level” or “instructional level” than the actual grade they are in, especially in math.
Reducing content is another thing entirely. Content reduction can be a slippery slope OR it can be a perfect solution to ensure that a student is being taught the “gist” of a lesson and is able to demonstrate that learning. For example, if the general education content is reduced to 60% of what is given to everyone else and the student gets all of it correct, they have earned the equivalent of a “real” D on the assignment. However, if they get anything wrong, they will have failed the assignment. Multiple failed assignments mean they have failed the class. It is very important that everyone has a clear understanding of what is being reduced and what the criteria is for the reduction.
Sometimes, cherry-picking the content for the “essential concepts” is a great way to ensure that a child is held accountable for learning the important bits and not penalized for not being able to learn “everything.” Again, this is often a modification and the entire IEP team should agree on the terms of the modification and outline these in the IEP.
Graphically, it looks something like this:
For more information, please see this publication from Wright’s Law: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/sec504.accoms.mods.pdf. Understanding the difference between accommodations and modifications is essential to understanding exactly what your child's educational team is suggesting for your child.
Erin Rupolo is the regional chairperson for the Mid-Atlantic region: https://williams-syndrome.org/parent/connect-ws-community!
PLEASE JOIN US IN BALTIMORE!
- Keynote presentation by Mike Porath, CEO of TheMighty.com, a digital health community that helps millions facing disability, disease and mental illness. Mike got his start in journalism at ABC News, where he was the network’s first overseas digital reporter and was awarded the Society of Professional Journalist’s top honor for his reporting in Kosovo. In addition to many other network news positions, Mike is also on the board of directors and fundraising chair of The Dup15q Alliance, a non-profit organization that supports people with Dup15q syndrome like his daughter.
- An encore of the extremely helpful IEP “Drop-in Center.” Parents can register for a 20-minute private consultation with a professional advocate to discuss your child’s IEP.
- Special needs trust consultations. Parents can register for a 20-minute private consultation with a professional advocate to discuss your special needs trust.
- Therapeutic evaluations for infants and toddlers, including introductory sessions on aquatic therapy in the hotel pool.
- “Lunch and Learn" small group discussions with speakers
- Opening reception with folk singer, David Roth and much, much more.
- Specialized children’s programs and sibling sessions.
- "New Family" area where those who are new to the convention can gather and network.
- Sessions about ensuring work and housing opportunities for adults with WS.
- 30+ Exhibitors represetning important resources for every family.
- "All convention" Block Party in Little Italy - 4 bands, 5 restaurants, stilt walkers, face painters, and much more!
- $60,000+ in scholarships to help families attend.
- Inner Harbor attractions just outside our door.
- Minutes away from Washington DC.
For more information on the 2018 national convention, visit our convention page on the website.
Did you know that many funding sources are available for families who would like to attend educational conventions and conferences such as ours in Baltimore this year? Have you been wondering where/how to start? One possible funding source for parents is through your local State Special Education Departments. Every year, an amount of money is allocated in the IDEIA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) budget to support parent involvement. This money can be used as stipends to attend conventions such as the WSA’s #SetSail2018 in Baltimore.
The first step is knowing how to approach them. First, check your state’s website (some may have an electronic application). If not, write an email or letter to your local director of special education (for those school districts that do not have one, write to the superintendent) asking them to sponsor your attendance as a parent to the convention using the designated IDEIA funds. Explain why attendance at the convention will benefit you and your child and mention that you are a member of the Williams Syndrome Association. Include an overall statement explaining how attending will give you access to medical and educational professionals who will be providing invaluable information not offered anywhere else. Print our materials describing convention: williams-syndrome.org/convention if the application allows you to attach files or send additional information.
In addition to school districts, there are many other sources for funding within your community (especially when you know people personally). Possible resources include:
- Regional Centers
- Developmental Disability Councils
- Local clubs such as Lions, Elks, Rotary and Kiwanis
- YMCA, YWCA
- Area women’s and men’s clubs
- Teachers’ organizations
- Business associations
- Chambers of Commerce
- Church groups
- The Urban League
- University alumni groups with which you or your network may be connected
When you approach a local group yourself or ask a representative of a group to champion your cause, you’ll need to prepare a "proposal." Below are samples of statements to include:
1. A summary statement: I am asking for your financial assistance to provide travel and convention funding so that I may attend the 2018 National Convention on Williams syndrome, hosted by the Williams Syndrome Association.
2. Why it will be beneficial: More than 50 educational sessions will be provided over four days. The sessions will be conducted by medical and education professionals who provide valuable information on this rare condition. It is also a time for families to come together and learn and network with one another.
3. A statement of your goals in attending the conference: (perhaps list some of the sessions and what you hope to learn from them and how you will apply them to your child’s care and education).
4. A detailed budget: "Our plane tickets will cost $_____. Registration for the convention will be $_____, as I plan to pre-register in order to benefit from the lower registration cost. My hotel bill will be $_____ per night. Taxi or Uber/Lyft fare from the airport (round trip) will be $_____." If possible, don;t ask them to cover ALL costs. Funders like to know you are providing some of the funding yourself or from other sources.
Funding is never a sure thing, but armed with the right tools, you will have a much better chance for success! Good luck! We hope to see you in Baltimore!