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Accommodations for Autistic Students: All You Need to Know

April 11, 2024

Parents can spend hours looking for autism accommodations that can make learning a little easier for their children on the spectrum. Autistic students may have trouble with learning due to sensory processing issues and unique challenges specific to each child, making the learning journey more difficult for them.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are laws in place to support students with diverse learning needs and differences. These protections ensure that resources, accommodations, and support are available to students and their families, regardless of their specific challenges.

These measures aim to guarantee that all students have access to a quality education and the necessary assistance to thrive academically. Let’s learn more about autism accommodations and how they can help students on the spectrum.

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What are accommodations?

Accommodations are not just changes to assignments or activities, they are powerful tools that can empower students to work with their learning difficulties or differences. 

For instance, reading aloud and discussing a story with a student who struggles with writing can give them a voice and a sense of inclusion, enhancing their learning experience.

The assignments and expectations for the students are still there. They will be able to hear the same story and discuss it, but it’s done a little differently. This can help the students succeed using their strengths and working around difficulties they may be experiencing.

Who’s eligible for accommodations?

The eligibility for accommodations is covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and is available for both students with a diagnosis and those whose parents and teachers suspect that there may be a learning difficulty.

In most cases, parents can talk to their child’s teachers or principal and discuss their concerns for their child. Depending on the area and the school, there may be additional tests and observations needed to better understand the student and their specific needs.

Special education teachers can work with the physical therapist, speech therapist, and other professionals to make sure that the accommodations are beneficial for the student. An Individual Education Program (IEP) can be created with the school’s team and the child’s parent(s).

What accommodations are available for students with autism?

Any accommodation will be specific to the student. There are numerous support and services that are available for the autistic child at school, and will depend on what the child qualifies for and needs.

The Michigan Department of Education explains that if a student is found to need help, a 504 plan will outline the accommodations for autism the school will offer to ensure they can learn effectively.

A young boy with a therapist https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/helpful-autism-accommodation/

These supports could include, but not be limited to:

  • physical therapy
  • speech-language pathology
  • an interpreter and other interpretation services
  • mental health services
  • occupational therapy
  • early detection and early childhood interventions and services
  • mobility assistance and services
  • visual boards, social stories, and assistance
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communicative (AAC) devices
  • help with diagnosing and evaluating differing needs and special education services
  • medical assistance, including any health services
  • social worker and other services

Depending on their diagnosis, there are numerous other support and other alternatives to services that could be available and would be included in the creation of their specific IEP autism accommodations.

Autism accommodations vs modifications

Accommodations are a way of working with a learning difficulty or providing a way to overcome that difficulty by changing the way it is accomplished.

On the other hand, modifications are changes or alterations to assignments. For example, students may be working on level 3 math, while the child with an IEP works on level 1 because that is their current math level.

Although the student may not be working on the same task as their peers, they are able to work at their level and build their skills. The student generally goes to a different classroom and works with a special education teacher during these times.

These modifications and accommodations can work with autistic students and other students with learning challenges. They are available to help support the students and provide a way for them to better understand and succeed in the school setting.

Helping your child one step at a time

It is always a good idea for parents to talk to their child’s teachers and principal to get services started as soon as possible. Even if their child is already in a special education program, they could benefit from other related services.

Knowing what is available is a good first step. Talk to those who can help, understand your child’s educational journey, and understand the unique goals of your child. 

The ideas and examples provided in this article are just a starting point, each student is a unique individual, and talking to those who can assess and provide the support necessary is always the best way to get things started.


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FAQs

Q: What are 504 accommodations for autism?

A: 504 accommodations for autism refer to the supports and modifications provided under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to ensure that autistic students have equal access to education. These accommodations are tailored to meet the individual needs of students with autism, helping them succeed academically and socially.

Q: What are common autism classroom accommodations?

A: Accommodations can vary depending on the individual needs of each student, but common examples include visual schedules, sensory supports, preferential seating, extra time for assignments or tests, breaks, and access to assistive technology.

Q: What are IEP accommodations for autism?

A: IEP accommodations for autism are tailored supports and adjustments implemented within an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to address the unique needs of autistic students. These accommodations aim to facilitate learning, promote success, and create an inclusive educational environment.

Q: What accommodations should I ask for autism?

A: When requesting accommodations for autism, consider visual aids, sensory supports, seating preferences, modified assignments, and assistive technology. Work with educators to advocate for accommodations tailored to the student’s needs, strengths, and learning style.

References:

Sarrett, J.C. Autism and Accommodations in Higher Education: Insights from the Autism Community. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 679–693 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3353-4 

Accardo, A. L., Kuder, S. J., & Woodruff, J. (2019). Accommodations and support services preferred by college students with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 23(3), 574-583. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361318760490 

Leifler, E., Carpelan, G., Zakrevska, A., Bölte, S., & Jonsson, U. (2021). Does the learning environment ‘make the grade’? A systematic review of accommodations for children on the autism spectrum in mainstream school. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 28(8), 582–597. https://doi.org/10.1080/11038128.2020.1832145 

Feldman, I., Koller, J., Lebowitz, E.R. et al. Family Accommodation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 3602–3610 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-04078-x 

Center for Parent Information and Resources. (2020). Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students. https://www.parentcenterhub.org/accommodations/

Michigan Department of Education. (2021). Family Matters Special Education 504 Plans Fact Sheet. https://www.michigan.gov/mde

U.S. Department of Education. (2023). Parents and Families. https://sites.ed.gov/idea/parents-families/#CCN)

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