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Accommodations & Modifications

The following are past questions and answers from Dr. Larry Silver on this topic.

Why do I get tired when I'm trying to learn?

I am 48 and I still have the same problem I did in when I was in grade school. This problem is also the reason I didn't continue to college. When I am trying to learn (read, listen to an instructor in a class, watch a training video), I get sleepy. Almost like I'm going into at trance. I have poor comprehension and recall.

It has always bothered me and I feel like it kept me from reaching my full potential. I have many books and training materials but give up on reading or viewing them after I start.

I have a technical job that is changing at a rapid pace and this is causing me to fall behind my peers. What is this type of problem called? What can I do to over come it?

Your descriptions sound like you have a learning disability that impacts reading comprehension and possibly reading retention. You would have to have formal psycho-educational testing done to validate this is your problem. If confirmed, you can request accommodations on the job under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Try to find out who does this type of testing with adults.

What do I do about teachers who belittle my son in front of other students and do not follow his IEP?

I have a 9-year-old son, who was diagnosed with dysgraphia and ADHD in second grade. He has a special education plan, which his teachers usually follow, but because he is in lots of special groups, math help, reading help etc., he has lots of different teachers.

I am really having issues getting them to positively reinforce him. I fight with them all the time and it is just the same thing over and over — he gets a new teacher who is supposed to follow his IEP and instead they make fun of him or belittle him because he does not learn the same as other children. I am so sad and frustrated, I want to just follow him around and stop anyone who hurts him, but I can't do that.

Is there anything I can do to help his beaten self-esteem? Or maybe a different way to approach the teachers? He is just a little boy and he learns a little differently than others. I have had teachers use him as an example, saying things like, "If you don't do your homework, you'll end up like him." They have told him, "If you don't stop making your letters backwards, you will never have a job or a drivers license." Any help or advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated.



If your son has an IEP that clarifies your sons disabilities and the services needed, do not tolerate any teacher acting the way you describe. Keep a log of each occurrence. When you have enough examples, request an IEP meeting to discuss your sons progress. At this meeting, present your log and ask that this issue be addressed.

If your son has a 504 Plan, based possibly on the ADHD, follow the same process. Here, you would request a 504 meeting to discuss his progress.

Do not allow this to continue. But, you must document, document, and document. If your only data is from your son, see if you can get validation from another student, an aide, or someone else.

How can I prove to my workplace that I have a learning disability if my high school records don't indicate a diagnosis?

Hi and thank you for taking my question. I'm an adult male in my late 30's. I was diagnosed with a learning disability in the early 1970s. I was in special education classes from elementary school through high school. Just recently, I put in a request for my high school to send me copies of my transcript to see if they had me listed as an LD student. They responded by saying that at that time, they didn't use the terminology of a learning disability. My high school transcripts show that indeed I was in special education classes, but do not list a learning disability.

I want information about my diagnosis because I want my workplace to know that I have a learning disability. I have no other record about my disability and I know my workplace will want something in writing or on file. Any suggestions about what I can do to prove my case?

Thanks for your advice,


Gerald: You are correct in needing documentation if you are to use the Americans With Disabilities Act to request accommodations at work. The federal law that established a formal need for special education services was not passed until the mid-1970s. Thus, your school may have provided special education services without the formal documentation needed today. Also, many schools kept a formal record on each student that could be read and released to the proper people and a confidential record that contained any testing or evidence of a disability.

Most important to you is that when you request accommodations based on the ADA, you need evaluations that are not more than three years old. Thus, you will have to find out who does formal studies, known as psycho-educational evaluations, for adults with learning disabilities in your area. The professional who does these studies will help you document your disabilities as they relate to work.

How can I get an accommodation at work for my difficulty with handwriting?

I'm a 28-year-old male and am currently a head of department at a school of media and design. I suffer from a form of dysgraphia (at least I think that's what it is) in that I have terrible handwriting. I actually draw the shape of the word rather than spell it out (my spelling is terrible) and I cannot control the placement of capital and lowercase letters if I write by hand (though with a keyboard I don't have a problem).

I've recently enrolled in an advanced assessors course where all the work submitted has to be hand-written. It takes me hours to write out a single page, which is then only mostly illegible. And although each sentence starts with a capital letter, extra capitals crop up throughout the sentence.

I just wanted to know if there is a specific name or diagnosis for this so that I can plead my case.

Thanks in advance,


You need appropriate accommodations — possibly permission to use a computer to write responses. First, you must document your motor-based writing disability. This can be done by a psychologist who does psycho-educational testing. Once documented, you are entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act to such accommodations.

Meet with the Office of Disability Services at the institution you are attending. Explain your problem. Possibly, they can arrange for such studies. If not, they can direct you to the right person to do this assessment.

What is the best way to coach dyslexic people on a sports team?

I wanted to ask a question about team sports and dyslexia. Is there any research or resources about the best methods to coach players with dyslexia and to help them learn individual and team skills the most effective way?

Thank you

Your question and the sensitivity you have are applauded. Yes, students with learning disabilities (current school term for dyslexia) may need special accommodations when playing sports. It will be important for the special education team working with the individual to help you understand his/her strengths and weaknesses. Try to utilize the strengths and find a way to compensate for the weaknesses. Another source of guidance would be someone trained in adaptive PE. The fastest is to speak with the professionals working with this child in school.

Do you have any helpful hints or tips for adults with LD that struggle with test anxiety?

I have a question concerning the NYS Teacher's Certification Exam. I am an adult with a learning disability and I am struggling to pass these exams. Do you have any helpful hints or ideas that I might be able to try?

I am not a test-taker and often "flip out." Part of me doesn't know if it's my learning disability or test anxiety.


Under the American's with Disabilities Act, if someone has a documented disability, any testing program must provide the appropriate accommodations.

If you have Learning Disabilities, you will need current test data to document this. You will also need to have a professional define how your specific disabilities will interfere with the specific material and style of questions in the exam. Only with this data can you request the accommodation of extended time.

If you have an anxiety disorder that flairs up in test situations, you need to discuss this with a physician who can prescribe medication to use prior to taking the test.

So, go to the website for the exam, click under accommodations, click under your disability, and download the requirements to request accommodations. Then, try to address this list.

If everything fails, you will need to do practice exams until you are dizzy. You must learn to be efficient with the types of questions and types of problems you will be asked to know.

What accommodations can be made for Executive Frontal Dysfunction?

My son has recently been diagnosed with Executive Frontal Dysfunction. In the past everyone has said ADHD, but I knew that was not accurate.

Recently met with the IEP team and the school is not familiar with Executive Frontal. Can you please tell me how I can assure that my sons needs are being met on the IEP and that it is reflected in the classroom and not just on a piece of paper.

Organization and Executive Function difficulties can be caused by a Learning Disability, by ADHD, or by both. It is important to clarify which is the problem.

Should the behaviors be secondary to ADHD, medication will help. If due to LD, special education interventions will help. If due to both, medication and special education will be needed. So, work with an educational professional to clarify which is the problem. Based on the results, see your family doctor and/or request that the school professionals assess for services.

How can I learn my basic academic skills when the high school will not help me?

I am an early high school student. I just completed eighth grade but I find that a lot of my skills seem well below my classmates skills. I have had a learning disability since before I can remember. I have dysgraphia, fine motor difficulties, and speech difficulties. However I take a combination of regular, college prep, and honors classes. I am in no "special ed. classes" with the exception of supplemental.

I know for a fact that my skills in grammar, written expression, and spelling are well below the eighth grade level. However, I am receiving no help in those areas outside of my college prep English class. My teacher seem to think of me as "stupid." I have asked for extra help but she seems too busy to provide any after or before school help. So instead she sent me home with English text books to borrow over summer which doesn't help much since it takes me hours to get through one page due to my handwriting difficulties.

I learned very little in her class and I know the skills I lack in are not taught in high school but in elementary and middle school. I fear that without these skills I won't be able to be successful in school and work. A tutor is financially out of question and my case worker, who also happens to be my supplemental teacher, doesn't seem to think that I lack these skills or just doesn't realize it. I find she doesn't pick up on a lot of my difficulties.

How can I learn these skills that I need (e.g. basic grammar, spelling, and vocabulary) if I will not receive it through my classes? Do you have any suggestions?


I am so delighted that you understand your learning disabilities and learning abilities so well. As you know, this means that you have areas of great strength and areas of weakness.

If you have learned good compensatory strategies to minimize your weaknesses, you can handle most classes. However, in some classes, you struggle. Ideally, the special education coordinator for your school would work with the teacher for this class and help to develop any necessary adaptations or accommodations. You seem to be in a difficult situation where no resources are available. And, it seems that you did not get the necessary help in elementary school to compensate for your disabilities.

Don't give up. First, let's get your parents on board. Ask them to read this response. Then, ask them to go to the library and get a copy of a book, The Misunderstood Child. This book will help them understand what help you will need.

Maybe there will be a way to provide private help. Or, maybe, your parents can go to the school and insist on more help than you are now getting. If this does not work, e-mail me again.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Tracy Gray's section to see a Tech Expert's response to the same question.