I have worked with several teachers over the years who have specialized in supporting students with exceptional needs, and have also worked in my own classes to utilize the resources at my disposal to support learning in the classroom. I have learned through this work that one of the most effective methods of providing student accommodations is to look at the problem with a creative lens. While at times this seems counter-intuitive, as there are long-standing patterns of support used in many schools, by thinking manly about the needs of the student and what they need to be able to do, sometimes we are able to bring a very cost-effective and meaningful solution that would have escaped us if we were just looking in the standard book of solutions.
Case in point; I was in discussion last year about several students in my class who were ADHD and or otherwise easily ‘distractible’ in my fourth grade class. We had tried several accommodations for them that had worked moderately, but they were still unable to function well in the quiet times of class, where they had to maintain focus on a single task for a period of time. As I watched them carefully, I was reminded of my tenth grade non-academic students who functioned in much the same way during writing times. Those students, with permission (or sometimes without,) would trot out their iPods and focus themselves by tuning out the rest of the class with their music. While I didn’t always prefer their musical selections, or the level at which they played them, I could scarcely deny the effectiveness of this self-accommodation to tune out their peers.
With the support of our administration and the learning support team last year, I was able to purchase iPod Shuffles for the classroom. I loaded these up with classical music to drown out the background noise, nothing lyrical, just pleasant and engaging music. The results were astounding. While it didn’t work for every student experiencing difficulty; for those that were engaged, it was a profound change for them. In fact, the students began asking for the iPods immediately as we sat down to work. Since the iPod shuffles have no screen, no other distractions, the students are not tempted to ‘play’ with them and are not distracted by the technology. They simply put the headphones in and get down to work, which is what I was looking for.
Our school has purchased 10 iPod shuffles and they are used in several classrooms now, with great results. Students enjoy the independence and focus it offers them, and teachers are enjoying having another, relatively inexpensive, accommodation to provide for their students. If we can look ‘outside the box,’ sometimes we will find what we are looking for set just outside. How can you approach student accommodations differently? What could your students need that no one has seen before?