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Why Must I Make Modifications for a Child? It Seems Unfair to Other Children
by Pat Howey, Advocate

Question: I am a regular education teacher. I was told that I must make modifications for a child who does not have an IEP or 504 plan. Must I make modifications for this child? It does not seem fair to make modifications for one child and not the others. What does the law say?

Pat's Answer: The law does not require you to make modifications for a child who does not have an IEP or a 504. However, teachers make modifications for children all the time. Is it “fair” to:

• Give children the opportunity to earn passing grades by allowing them to do work for extra credit?

• Help children after school because they need extra assistance?

• Give a passing grade to a child who is trying very hard but is not earning one?

• Send assignments to a child who is at home sick or in the hospital?

• Let a child turn in an assignment late because the child was absent from school for a grandparent’s funeral?

• Let a child who uses a wheelchair participate in an another activity while other children must run laps?

Modifications Level the Playing Field

These are all very common modifications. Teachers make them every day. Are these modifications “fair?”

Isn’t it true that these modifications only level the playing field for children who get a bad hand of cards? They do not provide unfair advantages. Life deals our hands from the same deck. Some of us get aces; others get deuces.

Public education is not a poker game. Public education prepares children for life.

Modifications on the Job

As adults, do we question these job modifications?

• Teachers use paraprofessionals and aides to help in the classroom.

• Executives use secretaries to help with daily duties.

• Secretaries use computers to aid in drafting letters and documents.

• Attorneys use paralegals to do research and draft documents.

• Paralegals use modern technology, i.e., the internet to conduct research.

• Doctors use nurses to perform daily care of patients.

• Nurses use modern technology to help them care for patients.

These modifications allow us to be effective and efficient. They allow us to be productive and to concentrate on our actual work product instead of on the work process.

In the grand scheme of things, these modifications are relatively modern items.

Not long ago, teachers and principals used to be responsible for the entire school. Attorneys used to write documents by hand. Doctors went from house to house to care for patients, without help from nurses. Secretaries used to write documents by hand.

Modifications in Everyday Life

Today, we:

• Drive to work instead of walking, or riding a horse. Cars are modifications that allow us to get to our destination quickly, comfortably, and efficiently (for the most part).

• Wear glasses that modify our vision and allow us to see better.

• Sew by machine, not by hand.

• Cook with stoves and ovens, not over a fireplace.

I could list many other modifications that allow us to be efficient and effective.

What Will a Child Lose if You Provide Modifications?

The real question is not whether making modifications is “fair,” but what will be lost if you provide modifications to this child? What is the right thing to do for this individual child?

Will the child be able to focus on learning, instead of the condition that causes the child to need modifications?

If teachers provided the modifications children needed, we might not need laws and costly evaluations. Heck, we might not even need special education.

Resources on Accommodations & Modifications

Accommodations & Modifications. Some students with disabilities need accommodations or modifications to their educational program. This short article defines these terms and provides helpful suggestions for changes in textbooks and curriculum, the classroom environment, instruction and assignments, and behavior expectations. (4 pages, pdf)

Child with 504 Plan Failing, School Won't Evaluate.
Child has a 504 Plan; grades dropping; school will not evaluate for IEP because child does not have failing grades on report card. Parent needs a game plan.

Qs & As about IDEA, Students with Disabilities and State and District Assessments. "Family friendly" version of OSEP Memorandum about assessments; 26 questions and answers about parental permission, role of IEP team, accommodations and modifications; alternate assessments, out-of-level testing, accountability, and more.

Who is Eligible for Protections Under Section 504 - But Not Under IDEA? Who is protected under Section 504? A student with AIDS? A student with ADD? A student with asthma?

Word Banks and Calculators: Pete Answers Questions About Accommodations and Modifications. Do teachers have to provide the accommodations and modifications listed in the IEP? Pete answers questions, offers thoughts about teaching skills v. providing accommodations and modifications, Diana Hanbury King and Helen Keller, and his "Big Gripe" about special education.

Rehabilitating Section 504
(National Council on Disability)
One of a series of analyses by the National Council on Disability (NCD) about federal enforcement of civil rights laws. Rehabilitating Section 504 provides a blueprint for addressing the shortcomings that have hindered compliance and enforcement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPatricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.

Pat is a charter member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), serving on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2003. She has been a Commissioner on the Tippecanoe (County) Human Relations Committee, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and Partners in Policymaking, and a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. She has been on the faculty of the College of William and Mary Law School’s Institute of Special Education Advocacy since its inception in 2011.

Pat has an A.S. and a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal and an affiliate member of the Indiana Bar and the American Bar Associations.

Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.

In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.

"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time.

Contact Information

Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117

Revised 07/20/19


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