Is PREFERRED SEATING an Accommodation? 

If you’re like me, you may like to listen to content more than read it at times so…..I threw my backup iPhone on a tripod and voila!

Preferred Seating

Have you ever checked that box on an IEP or ILP and then during the meeting you see the smile come on the students face and they say “I can sit where I want….?” and we have to quickly explain what it entails?

I have to do that a lot of times with some of the IEP forms I’ve used over the years!

Screenshot of an IEP form with 'preferred seating' highlighted

And I’ve always wondered why some schools I’ve seen and organizations have named it like that, so thought I would do some digging and make a post about it.  Surprisingly enough I found out a sad truth……..I have been mistaken over the years.

Is it preferred seating or preferential?

I have seen both preferred and preferential used in different schools I’ve worked at, and even one of our international organizations that has a lot of good resources for the international school scene says ‘preferred seating’ in their ILP template, but in thinking about it for this post I have come to terms that ‘preferential’ is what says it best.

I have come to terms that ‘preferential’ is what says it best.

What does ‘PREFERENTIAL‘ mean? 

A Definition that basically says that it's when you give preference to someone.

I think an analogous way to think about it is with folks on the bus.  Since I’ve been an international teacher I haven’t owned a car too much, and ride the bus and trains a lot, I always have to be aware of where I’m sitting because cats with physical disabilities, or the elderly, or people who are pregnant or with children some times have priority seating…….or preferential seating.

This is an image done by Beckett Haight that remixed another image that shows students children standing on boxes in order to see over a fence (accommodations) versus students with different sized fences (modifications)

In a US context, that’s the Americans with Disabilities Act’s way of providing equal access to the buses, just like accommodations provide equity for our students.

And if we think about different learning challenges technically being referred to as disabilities, then we can see the same thing…. a student with ADHD for example may be given preference, and like the definition says, they may be chosen over others to sit in a certain place.

Not the student’s preference necessarily, but they have had preferential treatment.

What does that mean in the class?

A teacher may have their system for making a seating chart, or like to switch it up every few weeks, or likes the students to be able to sit wherever they want.  That’s my approach, sit where you want and if it becomes a problem, we can chat about it.

But if a student can benefit from this environmental accommodation, we have to strive for that.  Or I guess legally, we have to accommodate for that.

And like so many things we do as we support learning, this practice just makes sense even if it wasn’t an accommodation in the IEP. This reminds me of a student who I worked with on my caseload awhile back.  He was having a lot of difficulty academically and behaviorally and was close to being counseled out of the school.

In meeting with one of his teachers about next steps we could do so he could pass, they were mentioning all the things that this student wasn’t doing right.  One of my first questions was “Where does he sit?”

The teacher had to visualize the class for a second and then said, “In that back corner with a couple of his friends.”  The light bulb went off.  And it makes sense. 

General ed teachers are content experts and have a lot of planning to do, and grading, and what not, so sometimes in the thick of that they don’t get the birds eye view of where things are at with something like classroom management.  So having these four boys slowly struggling in the back of the class didn’t set off alarms to move them. But at the end of the day, what’s good for a student with special needs can be good for lots of others in the class.

It’s ‘PREFERENTIAL’ Seating!

So yeah, it’s preferential seating (or selective seating as we’ve called it in some schools).

Put a COMMENT down below and tell me if you too have been saying ‘preferred seating’ instead of ‘preferential seating’. 

I can’t be the only one!

Red circle with a red bar across it with the words preferred seating behind it.

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