Accommodations allow preschool students to complete the same tasks as their peers, but with some variation in time, format, setting, or presentation. For example, a preschool accommodation might include giving a student extended time to complete activities or providing them with assistive technology. Unlike modifications, which change what students are expected to learn based on their abilities — for example, having them write only the first few letters of their name — accommodations are designed to eliminate barriers to full participation in school. It’s important to make sure the accommodations your child needs are written into their IEP or Section 504 plan so that they receive equal access to learning.

Our research team compiled the following list of accommodations from reputable sources including our own content specialists, PACER, Families and Advocates Partnership for Education, and ADA.gov. Please note that these lists are not exhaustive, but are starting points to use when discussing accommodations with your IEP team. Each child has unique needs that should be addressed within their own highly individual and specific IEP. (Here’s a comprehensive list of school-age accommodations specific to distance learning that we compiled with the help of an OT.)


Classroom/Learning Environment and Seating

  • Keep the workspace clean and clear of unrelated materials
  • Keep the classroom or learning area quiet during learning times
  • Reduce visual distractions in the classroom/learning environment
  • Seat the student close to the teacher or a positive role model
  • Seat the student away from windows, doorways, and radiators
  • Provide a clear view of the board, teacher, and screen
  • Keep extra materials (crayons, paper, etc.) on hand
  • Provide additional personal space
  • Post a visual schedule at the student’s level
  • Allow frequent movement breaks
  • Provide accessible furniture (such as desks, tables, wobble chairs, etc.)
  • Provide headsets to block noise
  • Provide FM or a sound-field amplification system for listening
  • Provide organizers for cubbies
  • Provide assistance when moving between classrooms or around the building
  • Provide preferential seating for visual, auditory, or behavioral needs

Curriculum

  • Directions
    • Use both oral and graphic instructions
    • Give directions in small steps using as few words as possible
    • Number and sequence steps in a task
    • Provide visual aids
    • Remind the student of directions as they complete a task
  • Time 
    • Alert the student several minutes before a transition from one activity to another
    • Provide additional time to complete a task
    • Increase wait time for responses
    • Provide a visual timer

Assessments

Because the preschool curriculum is rooted in social-emotional learning, assessments in preschool rely primarily on pre-academic screeners. Teachers assess progress through naturalistic observation — that is, observing a child’s spontaneous behavior in their natural setting, in this case the preschool classroom — and by looking at “learning-to-learn” skills. Therefore, accommodations for preschool assessments can include the following:

  • Provide a distraction-free room
  • Provide frequent opportunities for movement breaks between learning
  • Pair verbal directives with visuals
  • Provide manipulatives
  • Ensure chair and desk height are appropriate for student
  • Provide sensory tools (e.g., foot band, chair cushion, etc.) for proprioceptive input
  • Provide alternative seating
  • Provide flexible seating (e.g., allowing children to stand, lie on ground, etc.)
  • Use reinforcement systems to motivate responses

Writing and Handwriting

Preschoolers are rarely given writing activities that require accurate handwriting or a full understanding of letters. Any notes, letters, or stories are usually dictated to the teacher or written using letter strings or scribbles. Handwriting practice is typically used for writing their names. In some cases, these accommodations may be helpful:

  • Provide adaptive writing tools, pencil grips, and a slant board or slanted surface 
  • Explore the use of alternate keyboard options and writing software
  • Provide specialized, lined paper with raised lines
     

 Behavioral Accommodations

  • Pair the student with those who are modeling good behavior for classwork, projects, and mentoring (both in-person and with remote learning)
  • Reward positive behaviors; increase the frequency and immediacy of reinforcement
  • Establish a plan to manage side effects of medication (such as providing a water bottle for thirst or allowing extra bathroom breaks)
  • Arrange a “check-in” time to review the schedule
  • Modify school rules that might discriminate against the student
  • Minimize the use of punishment; amend consequences for rule violations (for example, reward a forgetful student for remembering to wash their hands without a reminder rather than punishing the failure to remember)
  • Develop an individualized behavior intervention plan that is positive and consistent with the student’s ability and skills
  • Arrange for the student to leave the classroom/learning area voluntarily and go to a designated “safe place” with a staff member when under high stress
  • Develop a system or code word to let the student know when behavior is not appropriate
  • Ignore behaviors that are not seriously disruptive
  • Allow sensory and/or fidget objects to help the student self-regulate
     

Health Accommodations

  • Eating Orally
    • Provide 1:1 supervision during lunch and snack times for those with food allergies or those who are at risk for aspiration or choking
    • Provide verbal or visual cues to chew and swallow, and/or monitor the amount of food to prevent choking
    • Provide a “nut-free” table or classroom for those with severe allergies
    • Allow extra time during meals for students with reduced endurance for self-feeding
    • Provide the opportunity to snack during learning time or take short breaks from learning for snacking (for students who may not be able to consume sufficient calories during a designated lunch period)
    • Provide behavioral motivators for students who need positive encouragement to eat
    • Provide specific chairs, utensils, cups, straws, or positioners
    • Allow an adult-supported peer group to provide modeling and socialization during meals and snacks
  • Eating Using a G-Tube (Note that students who require tube feedings at school may also eat orally, in which case any of the above accommodations may apply)
    • Administer tube feeds where the student is most comfortable (such as the nurse’s office, lunchroom, or classroom)
    • Provide designated support staff (a nurse or trained assistant) to administer tube feeds as needed
    • Allow use of specific chairs or positioners during and following tube feeds for students who need to be in an upright position to manage reflux or other medical issues
    • Monitor for safety during tube feedings
    • Provide stoma site management by the school nurse as needed
    • Provide an emergency plan with the school nurse if the tube becomes dislodged at school
  • Toileting
    • Allow extra time to get to and from the bathroom, and more time as needed while in the bathroom
    • Provide an adaptive toilet seat as needed and access to a wheelchair-accessible stall
    • If a student wears diapers, provide access to a private, safe, and sanitary diaper-changing station out of sight of peers
    • Provide nurse support for catheter care 
    • Provide wet wipes to help with self-cleaning
    • Read this article for additional suggestions on toileting
  • Examples of Additional Health Considerations 
    • Allow a hat to be worn during recess for students with sun sensitivity
    • Develop a plan for administering medication
    • Provide access to temperature-controlled spaces during outside activities in times of excessive heat or cold for students with medical sensitivities to extreme weather
    • Provide a 1:1 aide during transportation for medical needs

Your child should have a health plan on file with the preschool so that any additional needs they have can be met.
 

Low-Incidence Accommodations

  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    • Provide an ASL interpreter 
    • Include ASL on labels, alphabet charts, and other areas of the classroom
    • Reduce visual distractions and background noise 
    • Provide a personal amplification device
  • Visual Processing
    • Provide all materials in enlarged font
    • Provide slant boards or a slanted surface
    • Provide verbal descriptions of visual aids
    • Use high-contrast materials
    • Use larger manipulatives
    • Provide a printed copy of what’s being presented on the board
    • Use raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
    • Provide Braille labels alongside letters, so all children access an equal level of exposure to writing
  • Auditory Processing
  • Mobility/Orthopedic
    • Provide accessible play equipment or alternatives (for example, a lighter/softer ball for sports activities or an adaptive tricycle if the playground and field are otherwise inaccessible)
    • Provide staff to help with navigating stairs, cluttered rooms, and other areas where the student may need support
    • Provide appropriate seating in the classroom, at school-wide events, and during toileting (such as an adaptive toileting seat)
    • Use appropriate workspace height and spacing in the classroom to allow for physical navigation where applicable, especially but not exclusively if the student is using a wheelchair or walker
    • Establish clearly defined times when a student will use a piece of mobility equipment during the day (for example, time in a stander or walker to ensure physical activity, particularly for students who use a wheelchair)
    • If the school has an elevator, make sure the teacher and any classroom or 1:1 aides have a key so that the student doesn’t have to wait to access it
    • Provide physical modifications to assignments for increased fine motor control (for example, raised outlines to help a student stay within the lines on writing and coloring projects)
    • Allow extra time to get to the bathroom, from class to class, to and from lunch and recess, etc., especially in large buildings
  • Additional Accommodations
    • Check progress and provide feedback often in the first few minutes of each task
    • Give the student tasks one at a time
    • Structure work so that the easiest parts come first
    • Allow the use of sensory tools
    • Establish a regular form of communication between home and school
    • Explore the use of memory organization aides such as tablets, task lists and visual schedules

 

Which accommodations have made a big difference for your child? We’d love to know! 

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