Adaptations- what are they? why does my child need adaptations? why is it an adaptation and not a best practice strategy?
So, parents you are heading into the reporting period and conference time and I am sure you are wondering what lingo will be thrown at you this time. Inevitably, there will be a new buzz word said at least 17 times during the parent conference & the report card will be as clear as mud for really understanding what your child is doing in school. No doubt, you will hear great things about what your child is doing and how the teacher is supporting their learning journey. You will also hear some things that will make you wonder what is going on in the class room and why your child might need additional support with certain areas.
For some parents, you might start hearing about areas of individualization: adaptations, modifications, individual education programs, or something similar. These are all BIG topics that require conversation, reflection, exploration, and action. Reporting time should not be the first time these words are thrown out to you, if necessary for exploration, but it does happen.
The most common of the 'individualizing' words is adaptations because they are a first step in supporting your child in a more individual way. I know what you are thinking now, inclusive education is all about valuing individuals as part of a learning community- SO why do we need to have formal & separate individualized plans? There is a simple answer: inclusive education systems are still organized around utilitarian principles and based on bell-curve thinking--> this leads to the argument of just because you say you are inclusive, are you really? The answer is no and this leads to a much larger argument that is beyond this post (and most of my posts). In sum, I believe that most adaptations are not necessary. Instead, I believe they are simply best practice for your child at this point in their learning journey. I do not believe that writing adaptations in a formal document is necessary or important. BUT, it is still a common practice and one that some of you will encounter at some point in your child's learning journey.
Keep reading to find out what YOU need to know about adaptations for your child.
what are they: individual or unique supports or strategies your child requires to be successful in some or all aspects of their school day.
examples: visual schedule, FM system, specialized seating, frequent check-ins, proximity to instruction, extra time, enlarged words, timer, task strips, quiet test area
when do adaptations get explored: teachers often explore and record adaptations after their usual strategies do not seem to be supportive or if the student has specific pieces of equipment necessary to their success. Adaptations should be discussed after collaborative efforts to expand supportive strategies have been tried. One teacher does not have all the answers, sometimes fresh eyes and ears are super helpful!
how are they different from best practice: good question! Adaptations and best practice, in my opinion, are the same. If a student requires certain supports to be successful, we use them! Think about the buffet of options- they are simply variation and choice being offered to support all learners.
why do adaptations get explored: teachers feel that these particular unique strategies are necessary and should be consistent for your child's success with certain areas.
adaptations can change: adaptations should be reviewed and explored consistently, as should any support or teaching strategy. They should change with as the learner's needs change or the presentation/representation of materials change.
things you ought to know & ask:
why these strategies? how are you seeing success?
what other strategies did you try? what did you notice?
enquire about how the strategies are implemented in other classes. Are they necessary with other teachers? Why? Why not?
what strategies are you using with the whole class? How did my child respond to those strategies?
how do you consistently implement the strategies? Is that really possible?
what did teachers do to support your child in past years?
enquire about why the teacher feels the adaptations are necessary for support. I always wonder check-ins are considered adaptations, shouldn't teachers just be checking in?!