When you attend IEP meetings and work with children with special needs, you hear the term “access to the curriculum” all the time. By law, all students have the right to access the general education program. The term can be used in many ways, but what does it actually mean to have access to the curriculum?
Simply put, access to the curriculum means giving students the right to the same curriculum that is provided to all students. When it comes to special education and SEN, teachers talk about HOW the student will be able to successfully acquire the curriculum that their same age peers are receiving. What supports and accommodations will be put in place to help students succeed?
How a student can access the curriculum
Does the child in the discussion have a disability such as dyslexia or dysgraphia? Or are you struggling with fine motor skills and/or writing? Then they may be able to access their curriculum through technology – for example, being able to listen to a text read to them as they answer questions. Or having the ability to write your written assignments or use speech to text instead of writing them to be successful.
If a child is visually impaired, they may need access to their curriculum using Braille. Or have your work provided in a larger press. Or removing colors that may be too stimulating. If blindness or visual impairment will prevent a child from learning, supports need to be put in place as a team to help the child succeed.
Let’s imagine a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. Sometimes they can be successful when an interpreter interprets with them what the class teacher is saying. Or if they have an amplification system, maybe the teacher wears a microphone-style device that only connects to that student’s hearing aid to help them hear better.
For a child with ADHD, they may have some alternative seating, seat rocking, shaking, or even movement breaks built into their day to be successful in paying attention so they can learn and understand the information being taught.
If a child is struggling to perform on tests in a regular classroom, does he need a separate environment? Or a small group / one-on-one test group? Extended trial period? Frequent breaks every few minutes? If the student needs them to pass the test, then they should be provided.
Accessing the curriculum means removing or accommodating barriers that may prevent a student from successfully engaging in the general curriculum, however appropriate for the student.
What is one thing you like to do to help your students be successful in accessing the general curriculum? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.