According to special education attorney Hope Kirsch, accommodations are techniques and materials that help students learn or perform schoolwork more effectively. Accommodations include extra time on tests, a lighter homework load, and permission to tape-record assignments.
Modifications are changes to the content or curriculum; special education means specially designed instruction. When we talk about Section 504, we are not talking about changing those educational expectations.
Accommodations for a 504 might include extra time for assignments, quiet place to take tests, “chunking” assignment, help with organizing work such as organizers. Thus, merely having a disability such as a learning disability, autism (especially high functioning, or ADHD) does not automatically entitle a student to special education. Rather, the disability must also impact the student’s ability to access the general curriculum such that modifications would be needed.
Special education is defined as “specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability…” 20 U.S.C. §1401. A child with a disability [under the IDEA] is one who not only has a disability, but “who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.” 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401, 1401 .)