Asking for Accommodations

teenage boy speaking with teacher in front of lockersStudents with LDs should be aware of their learning profiles and encouraged to participate in the IEP process, however, students also need to learn to self-advocate for the accommodations written on their IEPs[1]. Although all teachers should be aware of the accommodations listed in a student’s IEP, students may nonetheless have to remind teachers of their needs throughout the school year, including during lessons and assessments.

Explicit Instruction for Requesting Accommodations

The work of Prater and her associates outlines specific lesson plans that were designed to teach self-advocacy skills, and in particular, the FESTA steps for requesting instructional accommodations.

Students are taught to:

F - Face the teacher

E - Maintain eye contact

S - State the accommodation they require and the reason they are asking for it

T - Thank the teacher

A - Use the accommodation[2]

The lessons followed a direct instruction format: the objectives of the day are outlined, the teacher models the skill and students practice, corrective feedback is provided to students, and the teacher discusses how the skill could help them improve their schoolwork.

After being taught this strategy, students were able to request every accommodation they needed, even thought they did not always follow the FESTA steps. Their teachers noted anecdotally that the students became more confident in their abilities and participated more frequently in the classroom following the self-advocacy instruction.

Procedures for teaching how to request accommodations:

  1. The teacher describes the target behavior while the students follow on the printed material.
  2. The students are taught the vocabulary to use when describing their learning disabilities to ensure clarity in their communication.
  3. The teacher assumes the role of a student and demonstrates the behavior with the paraprofessional playing the role of the teacher or service provider.
  4. The teacher gives students the opportunity to ask questions or clarify specific points.
  5. The students rehearse the steps in describing their learning disabilities and requesting accommodations.
  6. Peers and staff provide immediate feedback.
  7. Students repeat the steps until mastery is demonstrated.
  8. Students then practice requesting accommodations in their classes.[3]

Even after explicit instruction, students may feel some discomfort discussing their LDs and accommodations[4]. Therefore, it is recommended that students with LDs receive repeated practice describing their LDs and communicating clearly their required accommodations in order to become more comfortable and confident when discussing them with instructors or service providers. With practice, students can become more confident in their abilities and may even begin participating more frequently in the classroom[5].

It is also important to remember that even when students are comfortable and have the skills to advocate for themselves, not all educators will be receptive. When asking for accommodations, even if students do not get the support they are asking for, it can still be a valuable learning experience.

Click the play button below to listen to a clip from the TalkLD podcast episode, “Supporting Students on their Self-Advocacy Journey”. In this clip Jenessa Dworet, a Department Head of Special Education and Student Success at a high school in the Toronto District School Board, explains how she helps her students when they come across a teacher who is resistant to their attempts at self-advocacy.

Click here to read the transcript for this audio clip. 

Click here to listen to the entire podcast.

[1] Prater et al., 2014

[2] Prater et al.  2014

[3] Durlak, et al., 1994

[4] Durlak, et al., 1994

[5] Prater et al., 2014