Aug 022013

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Q: My child’s teacher says if they provide *any* modifications for my child, she won’t be able to graduate with a regular diploma. Is this true?


There is a fine distinction between modifications and accommodations. Modifications DO affect graduation outcomes. Accommodations should not affect the type of diploma your child receives. Therefore, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.

High School Diploma with Modifications

Modifications are changes to the actual content your child is required to learn. In other words, she doesn’t have to learn the same things as the other children. If your child does not learn the same things as other students, he may only receive a certificate of attendance or a special education diploma.

If your child is receiving proper remedial instruction for Learning Disabilities such as ADHD, Aspergers, dyslexia, or another learning disability, any modifications made to instruction SHOULD only be temporary.  Modifications are used only until the child can work on grade level.

If your child’s remediation is properly provided and intense enough, he’ll make good educational progress. Your child should eventually have no need for modifications. The receipt of modifications in elementary or middle school should have no affect on your child’s high school diploma.

The BIG trick here is getting your child SUCCESSFULLY remediated in a timely manner. Your child has to have intense services so that modifications are not needed during high school.

Staying on Track for A High School Diploma with Accommodations

Accommodations do not change the level of instruction your child is receiving. They do not provide a reduction in assignments. Accommodations are changes to ways of presenting the SAME information in a viable way for your child. Accommodations also provide alternative methods for a child to convey her knowledge.

Examples of accommodations include untimed tests, having a test given orally, having a scribe for taking notes, having extended time for assignments, allowing assignments to be typed rather than written by hand, and having content read to your child.

Accommodations use the SAME curriculum that other children are given and makes that same instruction accessible to a child with a disability.  Your child still has to learn the same content as other children and will be eligible for a regular high school diploma even if she uses accommodations throughout high school.

Accommodations for spelling on a vocabulary tests should be made because your child KNOWS the word.. The true point of vocabulary words is for the child to know the word and what it means.. Not necessarily spelling.  Not counting off for spelling is a COMMON accommodation for children with dyslexia. Your child may even be permitted to use a Franklin SpellerHigh School Diploma with Accommodations to find the correct spelling of words.

Making Sure Your Child Receives A High School Diploma with Accommodations

What your child needs, and you SHOULD advocate for is “Accommodations.”  Accommodations make instruction and expression accessible to a child with learning disabilities. They help your child perform at her level of cognitive ability.

Modifications can result in your child receiving less than a regular diploma.. usually a “Certificate of Attendance” or a “Special Education Diploma,” so you really don’t want your child to have modifications.  For additional information, take a look at the Accomodations and Modifications section of our Free Online IEP training.

To find specific accommodations that might help your child, you may want to visit the PACER Center parent training and information center at or look at their PDF list of “School Accommodations and Modifications“.

Best Wishes,

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