The difference between interventions and accommodations

If you have a child who struggles in school, it can be hard to make sense of all the different supports and services available.

Some kids spend all day in the general education classroom and use accommodations. Some receive specialized instruction (). Still others leave the classroom to take part in response to intervention (RTI) programs. And some may do all these things.

Intervention and accommodation are both types of support. But they aren’t the same thing, and they’re not designed to help in the same way. Here are the key differences.




What they are

Targeted instruction to improve a specific skill. Interventions are based on a child’s needs. They:

Supplement the general education program

Use evidence-based strategies and techniques

Help students improve a skill or learn to apply existing skills to new situations

A change to teaching or testing that removes barriers and provides equal access to learning. Unlike a , it doesn’t change what a child is learning. It changes how a child is learning or showing knowledge. For example, a child with writing challenges might say the answers for a test instead of writing them.

When they’re used

Interventions are used to teach the skills kids need to improve a specific area of weakness. Once those skills are gained, interventions typically end.

Those weaknesses could be deficits in academic skills, like reading or writing.

There are also interventions for behavior problems (PBIS) that help kids better manage self-regulation, or learn more appropriate ways to interact with other kids.

Students with an IEP or a 504 plan have formal accommodations included in their plans. They may or may not continue to get those supports throughout their school years.

Struggling students who don’t have an IEP or a 504 plan may be able to get informal supports that let them show what they know.

What they should include

Interventions should include targeted assessments to measure the development of a child’s skills. Instruction should be planned carefully and provided regularly. It should include data collection (or progress monitoring) to track growth and help shape decisions about next steps.

Accommodations allow a child to get around a specific barrier or challenge. They should represent a change in one or more of the following:

Presentation (the way information is presented)

Response (the way assignments or tests are completed)

Setting (where your child learns)

Timing and scheduling (the time your child has to do the task)

Examples may include

Showing kids that what they already know can help improve their understanding of a topic

Multisensory reading programs

Schoolwide PBIS programs that explicitly teach behavior that is acceptable in the school environment

Social Thinking®

Seating away from distractions

Use of a formula sheet or number line for math tests

Small group testing

Extended time for assignments or tests

An extra set of textbooks for home

Audiobooks or text-to-speech technology

The freedom to work or take a test in a different setting, such as a quiet room with few distractions

Learn more about instructional interventions. Explore common accommodations you may see in the classroom. And download a toolkit of resources that can help you advocate for teacher training on the use of a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS).


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