Understanding the accommodations for children with learning disabilities

The school reform underway in the South African education system promises to dramatically change the nature of teaching and learning so that all learners have equal educational opportunities. Regarding learning difficulties, we moved away from the medical model where a learning difficulty was considered a deficit (or something wrong with the child) to focus on a more collaborative approach. that professionals seek support from all systems within the child’s environment, be it family, school, community or government.

In 2014, the Minister of Basic Education published the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support Policy (called SIAS). The SIAS policy applies to all mainstream schools, as well as full-service schools and special schools. The objective of the policy is to “provide a strategic framework for the standardization of procedures to identify, assess and deliver programs to all learners who need additional support to improve their participation and inclusion. at school “.

One of the main obstacles faced by people with learning disabilities has been the assessment process, often resulting in learner abandonment (or, more insidiously, a ‘push out’). There has been a shift from the formal, standardized tests that were created for a typical standard group of developing individuals to more informal assessment procedures used in the classroom. However, even with this change, a learner should still be able to complete the final matrix exams – formal assessments – so it is imperative that children with complex learning needs are offered multiple avenues for learning and assessment. . When accommodations are made during day-to-day classroom functioning, learners should be able to naturally transfer those accommodations into an assessment situation.

What is accommodation?

Essentially, an accommodation is a modification to tests or test conditions that allows a student to demonstrate true ability without changing the construction of the assessment itself. The accommodations are intended to help move inclusion from a simple theory to reality.

In general, applicants may request accommodation if they present a permanent or temporary physical difficulty or a specific intrinsic learning barrier. In other words, those who encounter barriers to learning arising from a disability, a learning disability, a learning disability, a behavioral or psychosocial disorder that prevents them from achieving according to their potential during evaluations.

The different types of accommodation available in South Africa

Adaptation of the test / reformulated examination paper

The paper is adapted according to the needs of the candidate or specifically when the language has been reformulated for deaf or hard of hearing candidates.

Additional time

Some additional time is allocated per exam hour, depending on the severity of the needs. This can range from 5 minutes per hour to 20 minutes per hour. Overtime applies to all subjects that the learner writes.


The candidate is assigned a reader and a scribe for the evaluations.


Exam papers may be offered in the appropriate braille code.


This is used in the event that a candidate needs a computer to type in their answers.

Enlarged print

Visually impaired candidates use paper with enlarged characters.


An exemption from a candidate’s first additional language and math / math skills is offered if a candidate

  • encounter serious and intrinsic barriers in math / math literacy;
  • or perhaps the learner encounters an intrinsic barrier to learning manifested by dysphasia (a language disorder marked by an impairment in speech generation, and sometimes also in understanding)
  • or if the candidate has a specific hearing impairment.


When a candidate’s handwriting is difficult to decipher, a sticker is affixed to their answer book so the corrector knows that the handwriting should be taken into account.

Medication / food intake

Learners may need to be able to take medication during an exam and / or have access to food and drink used to maintain sugar levels and treat hypoglycemia.

Personal or practical assistant

Some examination boards will allow a practical or personal assistant to meet a candidate’s specific needs (such as turning pages or holding a beaker during a scientific examination).


Some candidates may need to refocus on a verbal or physical cue.

Reader (electronic / human)

A reader refers to a person who reads the entire text of an exam paper to a learner. Some exam boards are more willing to allow a candidate to use an electronic reader such as a C-Pen, a handheld portable device that reads exam texts aloud with a human-sounding English digital voice. .

Rest breaks

A break is a period of time during which the learner is not required to be at his desk but must remain at the place of the exam. Pause time does not count as additional writing time.


This is someone who records verbatim what the candidate dictates or expresses through a sign language interpreter. This will happen in cases where the learner’s writing ability or physical disability prevents them from accounting for their knowledge and skills.

Separate place

It is a quiet location away from the main examination room, and many of the accommodations already mentioned require a separate location.

Specific equipment

This is specific to the needs of each candidate, such as special reading equipment for visually impaired learners.


This accommodation is granted to children who have significant difficulty with the spelling shown in standardized scores and written samples. A spelling sticker is usually placed on the candidate’s exam script to indicate accommodation so the examiner will ignore the spelling as long as it can be phonetically deciphered. This does not include linguistic documents where spelling or editing of text is examined

What is your role as a parent?

If you are the parent of a child in need of housing, you must be your child’s biggest advocate. It is essential that you keep records of any intervention that has been put in place – whether it is second grade remedial therapy, kindergarten occupational therapy sessions, or consultations with professionals. health related to suspected difficulties. The more historical evidence you are able to present, the greater the chance that your child will receive the necessary accommodations. It is important to note that the school submits the documents to the exam board on behalf of your child, so talk to the Learning Support Officer and make sure he has any additional documents from you. that are relevant to the application process. Some relevant information to document and submit may be:

  • a recent psycho-educational assessment report
  • any medical evidence such as prescribed medications or professional reports
  • supportive reports received by the candidate (such as occupational therapy / speech therapy)
  • Reporting feedback from the candidate’s current teachers is important
  • Examples of schoolwork in the area needing support – whether these are examples of unfinished work, difficulties in spelling, writing or poor writing

All these elements strengthen the file and will be well received by the examination boards in order to allow them to more easily grant the candidate the applicable accommodations.

For more information on inclusion and accommodation, visit https://bellavista.org.za/bellavista-share/

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