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Intervention vs. Accommodation: What's the Difference?

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

One of the questions that I frequently get asked in my role of MTSS coordinator is, "What intervention should I do to help this child?". After all, the right intervention can make a huge difference in supporting a child and closing the achievement gap. However, I often find that sometimes the intervention we identify and pick often isn't an intervention at all, it is actually an accomodation. But how do we know the difference?

What is the difference between an intervention and an accommodation?

Both interventions and accommodations are important to student success, but they support students in different ways. One targets what students learn and the other supports how they learn. But which is which?


What is the difference between an intervention and an accommodation?

When we identify an intervention for students, we are looking at what skills a student needs and specifically designing intervention to teach those skills. Students might be missing or needing additional support for skills because of unfished learning, missed instruction, or more time/exposure needed for mastery.

An example of a specific skill that an intervention could support could be blending cvc words with fluency and accuracy. Teachers can provide additional instruction to a child to help master this skill. Teachers can also measure progress towards mastery of this skill. This skill is supporting what a student is learning.

Other interventions can include:

  • Targeted math skills like number sense, counting and cardinality, understanding base 10

  • Targeted literacy skills like building phonemic awareness or phonics pattern knowledge

  • Lunch Bunch to work on a specific social emotion skill

  • Reteaching or pre-teaching concepts to help support mastery for students needing additional repetitions

What is the difference between an intervention and an accommodation?


When we identify accommodations that students need, we are looking at supports to put into place to allow students to access instruction. We are focusing on how students are learning. Students might need modifications in their daily learning to access the learning in the best way possible.

An example of an accomodation would be preferential seating. When we put this accomodation in place for a student, we are identifying that this particular student can access instruction better when they have a preferred seating space. This space could be close to the teacher if they need more frequent checks for understanding (another accomodation). This space could be closer to the board if they need more accessibility for vision, attention or focus.

Other accommodations can include:

  • Frequent checks for understanding

  • Speech to text

  • Small group testing

  • Additional time for testing

  • Orally read directions for non literacy based assessments

Can We Do Both?

Yes! Often times, when we are identifying the intervention a student needs, we will also identify accommodations that can support how they are learning. Other times, a student might just need an intervention to support what they need to know or an accomodation supporting how they are learning. When we work to design instruction for students using either interventions or accommodations, it is important for us to to seek clarity first- do we want to support the what the student is learning or the how they are learning. This can help us maximize the learning we are designing for them.


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