Foundations for Education

The Foundations are designed to be integrated into schools and therapy settings. In order to understand how FDM fits into the IEP process and therapy goal-setting, this entry will explain what accommodations are, how they are working (or not working) in school settings now, and how FDM works to address this. To start, we need to recognize that there is a failure of imagination among many teachers and parents when it comes to visualizing what disabled adulthood looks like. Often times, the goal is set as neurotypicality and not a future as a disabled adult. But the Americans with Disabilities Act offers perspective here. In the ADA (the legislation that governs workplace accommodations, building access, etc. for disabled people), the responsibility to know and request accommodations falls on the disabled individual. This is something that children can be prepared for through the IEP goal-setting process. FDM recognizes this and reorients goal-setting toward knowing and using accommodations.

Typically, in Special Education, the process has been teach first, accommodate second. For example: John has been taught how to do his times tables for three years now without success, so we will give him a calculator in fifth grade. Even the structure of an IEP separates the accommodations from the goals, with the accommodations and modifications typically listed in another section, and not integrated into the goals. The accommodations are seen as a last-resort, or a list of optional best-practices, as opposed to a legal right and essential foundation.

Let’s take an example of a standard reading comprehension goal:

By the end of the year, Suzanne will correctly answer 10 literal comprehension questions about a story read aloud to her, at her instructional level.

By Sped. standards, this is a good goal. It is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. (SMART Goals) However, Suzanne has difficulty with word retrieval and needs to use her accommodation of a visual support for this activity. Using FDM, her need for these supports has been identified. The goal now would be re-written:

By the end of the year, given visual support containing a list of relevant vocabulary, Suzanne will answer 10 literal comprehension questions about a story read aloud to her, at her instructional level.

The accommodation has now become part of the goal. Suzanne will now have access to her accommodation every time she is asked to do this task, but will also likely understand that she is entitled and should be using her accommodations.

Here is a second example:

By the end of the year, Marina will sit in circle time for 10 minutes with her peers.

That goal can be re-written to teach Marina her accommodations.

By the end of the year, when given access to sensory tools (floor cushion, weighted blanket, etc), Marina will request her sensory tools with her communication device for use during circle time.

Instead of an outward compliance goal, the teacher is now teaching Marina to advocate for her needs in order to support her in remaining with the class.

Teaching time then, is dedicated to knowing and using accommodations from the very start. The ADA is a part of what “College and Career Readiness” means for disabled students. By envisioning our children as life-long users of accommodations, we can reorient goals away from neurotypicality into a rich and empowering future as a neurodivergent adult.