IEP accommodations during distance learning

Distance learning brings new challenges to special education. One of the biggest challenges is how to implement accommodations for students who have an  (IEP).

Innovative thinking and an understanding of available tools can make accommodations work during distance learning. Plus, many of these online strategies and tools can help provide accommodations during in-person learning.

Take a look at the charts below for some examples of how commonly used accommodations can work in both in-person and virtual settings.

Accommodations that change the way information is presented to students

AccommodationVirtual Learning AlternativeMicrosoft Education ToolsG Suite for Education
Use audio recordings instead of reading text



Immersive Reader

Office Lens

Immersive Reader (Chrome extension) 
Format pages with fewer items per page or line

Larger font

Reduced amount of material per page (virtually and in packets)

Immersive ReaderIncreased line spacing 
Work with text in a larger print sizeBuilt-in accessibility features on smartphones or computers to change font size

Immersive Reader

Magnifier accessibility feature

Larger font 

Zoom in and zoom out accessibility feature

Have a “designated reader” or hear instructions spoken aloud

Record the teacher reading the instructions


Immersive Reader


Office Lens

Immersive Reader (Chrome extension)

Mote extension

Record a lesson, instead of the student taking notes 


Transcript of the lesson

Screen recording of the lesson



Voice typing in Google Docs

Loom (Chrome extension)

Screencastify (Chrome extension)

Get class notes from teacher or another student

Shared files 

Web captioning  

Teacher notes before the lesson or a transcript after the lesson 

Captions in Microsoft Teams meetingsCaptions in Google Meet sessions
Get written instructions 

Scheduled assignments to share and review before the lesson

Bulleted list of concise instructions in the chat feature for live lessons (or directly on assignments)

Assignments in Microsoft TeamsAssignments in Google Classroom
See an outline of a lessonLesson outline sent via email or learning management system (LMS) before the lesson



Google Docs outline tool
Use visual presentations of verbal material, such as word webs

Collaborative whiteboard tools, like Miro




Minimize auditory and visual stimulation

Study carrels or room dividers (families can pick up from school, if possible)

Separate, quiet room (if possible)

Slides and materials with fewer visuals, fonts, and colors 

White Noise

White Noise (Chrome extension)



Accommodations that change the way students complete assignments

AccommodationVirtual Learning AlternativeMicrosoft Education ToolsG Suite for Education
Give responses in a preferred form (spoken or written)

Dictation to an adult or a peer


Uploaded audio or video recordings

Check in with a family member to see if they can help write responses

One-to-one conference with the student

Microsoft Teams meetings

Audio in Flipgrid


Dictation in Word

Google Meet sessions

Voice typing in Google Docs

Upload recordings to Google Drive

Use a calculator or a table of math facts

Online calculator or a built-in computer/smartphone calculator tool 

Graphic organizers

Assistive technology tools for math

Math Assistant in OneNote

Math Solver app
Google Docs equation editor
Use manipulatives to learn and practice math skills

Send home physical manipulatives

Paper/printable manipulatives

Virtual manipulatives


Number Pieces (Chrome extension)

Geoboard (Chrome extension)

Use graphic organizers and sentence starters to help structure and generate writing ideas

Graphic organizers to use with assignments. Websites to create graphic organizers: PoppletMindMupCreatelyMind MeisterMindomoSpiderScribe



Accommodations that can help with scheduling, timing, and organization

AccommodationVirtual Learning AlternativeMicrosoft Education ToolsG Suite for Education
Use sensory tools, like an exercise band that can be looped around a chair’s legs 

fidget to use at home 

sensory toolkit to be sent home or picked up by the student 

Small group learningOne-to-one videoconferences or breakout rooms to allow students to ask questions or complete assignments with teacher supportMicrosoft Teams meetingsGoogle Meet sessions
Take more time to complete a task or a testExplanations to students and families on how to "chunk" assignments and set due dates accordinglyAssignments in Microsoft Teams

Assignments in Google Classroom

Google Keep to-do lists

Have extra time to process spoken information and directions

Assignments and directions given ahead of time, with time to check in with the student to answer questions

Shared class document for students to add questions during or after a lesson

Microsoft Teams meetings

Google Meet sessions

Google Docs

Take frequent breaks

Brain breaks during virtual classes

Scheduled time for brain breaks in the middle of independent assignments

Embedded brain break videos in digital assignments

Assignments broken into smaller tasks or chunks

Videos with exercises within lessons

Microsoft Stream or screen share for brain break videos

Chat feature to remind students to take a break

Videos embedded in Google Slides

Chat feature to remind students to take a break

Two Google Forms (or a Google Doc and a Google Form) to break down parts of an assignment

Take a test over several days or complete the sections in a different orderTest broken up into smaller tests or create multiple digital forms for each sectionMicrosoft FormsGoogle Forms
Use an alarm to help with time management

Visual timer on Zoom or screen share a visual timer on other platforms  

Website blockers to increase focus

Cold Turkey


Stopwatch & Timer (Chrome Extension)

WasteNoTime (Chrome Extension)

Strict Workflow (Chrome Extension)

Task Timer (Chrome Extension)

Pause (Chrome Extension)

Mark texts with a highlighter

Highlighter function on PDFs and other documents (with explicit instruction on how students can use the highlighter)

Text annotations and highlighting in Office Lens

Text highlight in Edge browser

Highlight Tool (Google Docs add-on)

Kami for annotation (Chrome extension)


Even students who don’t have an IEP need to learn differently during distance learning.

Karyn Fillhart, an assistive technology instructor, Apple Teacher, and Microsoft Certified Educator, offered suggestions specific to each platform. 


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