Special Education Accommodations for Science

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Science is a fun subject that allows students to learn new concepts about the world in which they live. Let's look at some accommodations that will help students with disabilities learn grade-level content in a way that fits their individual needs.

Science Instruction

The solar system, living things, and the human body are captivating topics that usually keep students excited and engaged in the classroom. However, students with disabilities can easily get lost and overwhelmed with the new vocabulary and concepts in science. For this reason, many children in special education experience major challenges trying to keep up with their peers. Classroom accommodations are one way you can help level the playing field for your students with disabilities.

Accommodations Versus Modifications

First, let's make a distinction between accommodations and modifications in schools. Classroom accommodations are changes to how a student learns material. When a student is allowed to listen to a reading of the textbook in order to complete a worksheet, an accommodation is being made to help the student learn the same content as his or her peers. Modifications, on the other hand, are changes made to the content that a student is expected to learn. An assignment is modified when, for example, you give a student reading material on a lower level to match his or her ability. This lesson will focus on accommodations that can help students with disabilities learn science in the regular classroom.

Science Accommodations

Students with disabilities span a wide range of levels of functioning. Some students with mild disabilities may be in a regular education setting and require minor accommodations to keep up with the general curriculum. Students with more severe disabilities may need significant help to participate in science. The ideas in this lesson will cover a wide variety of accommodations that can be used in a regular science classroom. Science and special education teachers should collaborate on which accommodations should be implemented for individual students based on the student's disability and strengths as well as the guidelines written in the student's individualized education plan (IEP).


Most science instruction includes a significant amount of note-taking. It is common to see a teacher at the front of the classroom explaining a new concept, while students take notes on key points. Students with disabilities may have an especially hard time spelling new words, knowing what to write, and actually writing. Here are some accommodations for students who have trouble taking notes.

  • Write notes on the white board and allow students to copy them. Be sure to print clearly and avoid cursive handwriting.
  • Provide students with a copy of the lecture notes, leaving key words out for students to listen for and fill in.
  • Provide students with a complete copy of the lecture notes, and have them follow along.
  • Find a student in the classroom who takes complete, accurate notes. With that student's permission, photocopy his or her notes at the end of the lecture and give the student with a disability a copy to supplement his or her own notes.
  • Have students draw pictures to represent their notes. For example, if you lecture on the eight planets in the solar system that rotate around the sun, the student could draw a sun with eight circles around it.

These accommodations do not excuse students from learning the same material as their typical peers. However, by eliminating an excessive focus on writing, including the added strain of trying to spell words correctly and print legibly, you're simply giving students the chance to focus more on what you're saying.


Science books tend to include a lot of new, unfamiliar words. Students who struggle with reading will have a hard time getting through the reading assignments in science class. Students with mild disabilities are often able to remember information well and learn new facts and concepts right alongside their peers. You can remove the barriers to understanding by allowing students with disabilities some of these reading accommodations.

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