Providing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities During Online Learning

Embarking on this journey known as online or distance learning is a completely new concept for most of us I would say. If you’re anything like me, as soon as you heard that you were about to be expected to give special education instruction online you may have panicked a little bit. Whenever I’m worried about something, I tend to face it head on and do a lot of research. (This is a great quality whenever it involves solving legitimate problems; it’s a bad quality whenever WebMD is involved, but I digress…) I have compiled a list of ways you can still provide accommodations for your students that have IEPs from the comfort of your own home!

Disclaimer: I tried to include several different learning platforms, but many of the things I’ve listed are specific to Google Classrooms and other websites I personally have access to due to subscriptions I have signed up for or my school district has provided.


The ability to differentiate assignments is truly going to be your best and most reliable source of accommodating or modifying assignments and assessments for your students. Most, if not all, of the platforms you may be using to deliver online instruction allow you to choose who you assign activities to – meaning that you can create several similar assignments and send them to students based on their focus skills or ability level.

In addition to being picky with who you assign activities to, you can also be picky about the content of assignments and assessments which is huge! Using Slides or Documents is an easy way to quickly create differentiated activities that target exactly the skills and topics you want each learner to master. Creating assignments and assessments is especially helpful because you can control font size and add in visuals (pictures, clip art, etc.)

Structure and Extended Time

For students who rely on structure to stay on task could benefit from a daily or weekly assignment checklist or schedule. A checklist or schedule can be emailed to them or posted at the top of your online classroom. Structure can also be found in providing students with prefilled or fill-in-the-blank notes, as well as digital graphic organizers.

To accommodate for extended time, I suggest first and foremost to limit the amount of assignments you prepare to the bare minimum. Students will be adjusting to this new form of learning just as much as teachers. Asking them to complete multiple assignments a week can be overwhelming in general, but especially during this transition. Along with limited assignments, you could also consider being as flexible on due dates as you are allowed to provide additional time whenever necessary.

Virtual Math Manipulatives

If you are unable to provide students with take-home manipulatives (I surely can’t with the haste in which we had to leave our classrooms) the next best thing are virtual manipulatives. I post links to these with my math assignments in my Google Classroom and instruct students to use them if they wish. These are the three best websites that I have found:

Alternatively, encourage students and their parents to use household items for manipulatives! Buttons, coins, blocks, Legos, snacks, etc. can all easily be designated as manipulatives, and can also create some interest in an activity.

Individual Instruction

Offering students one-on-one support can be beneficial, as long as you have the go-ahead from your supervisor and you are comfortable with doing so. Phone calls, FaceTime/video chats, or live messages via a messaging app will allow for you to continue giving your students direct instruction that meets their individual needs. This could also be great for continuing to progress monitor IEP goals.

If you are going to have a video chat with your students, be sure to reduce any distraction-causing items, people, and pets in the same way that you would reduce distractions in your real classroom.

Communication with Parents

Because parents will be in charge of ensuring their children are staying on track with their online assignments, this may also be a great time to review the accommodations section of IEPs with them so that they are aware of the various accommodations that can be applied to their child’s schoolwork. Giving parents a quick lesson in providing accommodations at home can be vital for successful online learning. Once you have discussed accommodations with parents, continue to give them support throughout the rest of this online journey by giving suggestions for accommodations for each assignments, and checking in with them to see what is and is not working at home.

Websites and Extensions for Added Support

Along with the ideas I have mentioned above, I have also made a collection of websites, extensions, and accessibility support options that would be useful for students with disabilities (in no particular order):

Google Docs Voice Typing: Whenever opening Docs in a Chrome browser, choose Tools, and there will be an option for voice typing. Google Chrome also has additional Talk to Text extensions that are worth looking into and recommending to parents to download.

Grammarly: This is an extension that is able to be downloaded onto a computer that corrects grammar as students type. Not great if you’re specifically assessing grammar skills, but awesome if you’re not so worried about grammar as you are content!

Symbaloo: Perfect for students that have limited reading skills, but work well with environmental print! You (or parents) can create a page with all the websites students need to access and it will show the logo/symbol, eliminating the need for students to type in their desired webpage and navigate the Internet any further.

Nearpod: If you have access to Nearpod, you can create interactive slideshows and record your voice over the slides! This means you can read directions and questions aloud, which is amazing!

websites that will read books aloud: raz kids, epic, audible

Read Alouds: Speaking of having things read aloud…Epic, Raz Kids, and Audible are all free for the remainder of the school year and have options to listen to books and stories aloud.

Loom: This website is very cool whenever it comes to explaining things to students, especially how to navigate a website or how to complete an activity. On Loom, you are able to video record yourself while simultaneously taking a screen capture of whatever is on your computer screen. This is not a real-time video chat, but you can send out the video to students once you are finished.

Closed Captioning: Keep in mind whenever video chatting, like on Zoom or Google Meets, that you are able to turn on closed captioning in the video settings.

Other Accessibility Supports: Remind parents that most devices, especially phones and tablets, have easily accessible supports for reading aloud, talk to text, changing the colors of the screen, and more.

Now that you’ve read my ideas, I’d love to hear yours! What are some ways you have accommodated students’ assignments and assessments from afar?

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