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What does the phrase “mandated accommodations” mean for a child with an IEP? Does it mean that when the child is offered the accommodation(s) that he or she must use them all of the time? For class work? For school testing? For state testing?

Is there a law that states that the child is required to take the accommodation? Three of my seven students have declined using them except for during the state testing. They are being told that they must use them all of the time. Of course the probability exists that it may be to their benefit; however, in specific situations children have opted out and done well.

Is it their right to be able to choose or must they be coerced/forced to comply? Several other teachers and I would be most grateful for your advice on this matter.

Dear Pam:

Your question addresses the meaning of the phrase “mandated accommodations.” I am not sure of the specific circumstances in which the phrase is being used, but as a general matter, accommodations are mandated if they are listed in the child’s IEP. They may be listed as applicable under all circumstances or the IEP may describe them as applying under some circumstances, but not others.

Generally, though, if there is a need for an accommodation, it should be provided consistently in the various settings where it would be relevant to the child’s ability to function in relation to the specific task.

In addition, there are various ways that accommodations are sometimes qualified, through language such as “as needed,” “at teacher discretion,” “at student request,” or the like. If the parents and team feel that the child needs the accommodation, it should be written in declarative language. If the accommodation is only needed from time to time, some language should be included to describe the circumstances and to ensure that it will be used when needed.

If a child opts out of using an accommodation, it may be because they don’t need it (as evidenced by their succeeding without it). However, many kids may opt out of an accommodation because they are embarrassed, don’t want to be viewed by their peers as different, or may have unrealistic awareness of the importance of the accommodation.

Under these circumstances, and depending on the child’s age and level of understanding, this is an issue to be addressed in relation to their self-awareness and self-advocacy. Whether the accommodation should be “required” in the face of the student’s objection would need to be determined based on the situation.

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