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Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Information for Parents and Caregivers

List of IEP Accommodations and Specially Designed Instructions

Two elementary-aged girls draw during school.

Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) is anything specific and unique to your child, determined by their areas of need, to help them access their education. It is based on the evaluations done on your child. SDIs are used to help your child achieve the goals listed in the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Most SDIs should be applied across all environments, not in just one class or classroom. They are adaptations or modifications to the regular curriculum. SDIs are in place to help your child reach his or her IEP goals and objectives. The lists below will give you a starting point for brainstorming about your child’s IEP.

What are some ideas for Specially Designed Instruction that I can include in an Individualized Education Program?

Visual/Audio Assistance

  • Visual charts
  • Visual schedules
  • Visual cues in locker, lunch box, or on desk
  • Written schedules on locker, lunch box
  • Visual cues in hallways to guide child to next classroom or cafeteria
  • Use of FM headsets to either have blocking out music, or FM transmission of teacher speaking
  • Special sign or signal between teacher and student to notify student of something
  • Graphic organizers
  • Choice cards
  • Emotion Cards
  • Ear plugs or headphones
  • Adaptive equipment such as pens, pencils, calculators, fidgety toys, large print books, audio, etc.
  • Watch videos of social stories/interactions and ask them to explain
  • Visual schedule on blackboard
  • Alarms as reminders on phone, wristwatch, etc.
  • Picture calendar or schedule
  • Provide audio recordings
  • Provide video/audio recordings
  • Voice recognition software
  • Remind student to wear glasses/hearing aids
  • Token board
  • Pencil grips and slant boards
  • High contrast materials, limited visual clutter
  • Reward charts
  • To-do lists
  • Show example of completed projects

Test/Homework Assistance

  • Extra time to complete the work or reading given
  • A quiet area to complete the work or take a test
  • Having someone read the material to them
  • Having someone read a test to them
  • Minimal use of open ended statements or questions
  • Allow 5-10 second (whatever the child needs) processing time when a request is made
  • Chunk down verbal instructions
  • Use only 1 question or instruction task at a time if the child cannot do 2-3 part questions
  • Homework assignments chunked down by teacher to define each task
  • Breaking down tests into segments
  • Alternatives for completing assignments (typed instead of written, or verbal)
  • Clear, concise instructions that are at the child’s ability
  • Provide notes, outlines or organizers with key concepts or terms highlighted
  • Mnemonics
  • Explain metaphors and double meanings
  • Limit oral questions to the number that the child can manage
  • Frequent test breaks with opportunities to move
  • Testing in a study carrel
  • Testing in the morning only
  • Masking test items so only single questions are visible
  • Allow use of preferred writing implement
  • Test format to tap “recognition memory” such as matching or multiple choice rather than fill in the blank without a word bank
  • Use of a scribe or oral testing to open ended or essay formats
  • Provide a study guide
  • Extra set of text books (1 for home, 1 for school )
  • Permission to hand in all assignments late, as pre-determined
  • Modify assignments to only include essential content
  • Access to resource room or learning support room
  • Spelling dictionary, or spell checker
  • Longer assignments broken down and scheduled out in pictures or words

Structuring the Student's Environment at School

  • A quiet area to complete the work or take a test
  • “Preferential Seating”, means sitting near the front, or away from distraction or in their area of preference.
  • Preferential seating for hearing/audio
  • Preferential seating away from distractions, windows, doors, speakers
  • Early dismissal from class to get to locker and to next class
  • “Hot pass” or “cool off card”, which is a card the student gets and they can leave class, flash the hot pass to the teacher, and go to the office, guidance counselor, nurse (designated ahead of time) to cool off, if they feel a negative behavior coming on (usually happens after peer to peer interactions such as bullying)
  • Personal time outs to regroup and prepare for transition
  • Time warnings and increased transition time
  • Do not use sarcasm or inferences when communicating with student
  • Adapted lunch setting to reduce sensory stressors
  • Adapted recess with adult lead activities to increase peer interactions
  • Recess and group activities to be designed with IEP goals in mind
  • Monthly, weekly or bi-weekly phone or in person conferences with parents (progress monitoring)
  • Have child write down verbal questions to aide in processing
  • Advance notice of transitions
  • Speak slower
  • Use literal language
  • Give sensory breaks- have the child carry down attendance sheets or just a few envelopes to the office to allow for movement
  • Timed bathroom breaks
  • Encourage but do not force eye contact; forcing eye contact may break train of thought
  • Awareness of sensory issues- smells, sounds, lighting; adjust as appropriate
  • Set up opportunities for child to self advocate
  • Keep days and activities structured
  • Buddy system for unstructured times
  • Peer to peer tutoring as appropriate
  • Structured social skills groups
  • Role play
  • Social stories
  • Yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques
  • Education sessions for peers to help them understand disability
  • Pre-teaching information, then post-teaching afterwards
  • Structured seating arrangements
  • Activity based learning
  • Provide direct feedback in appropriate settings
  • Cooperative games rather than win/lose
  • Facilitated socialization at recess, lunch, breaks
  • Role playing-both with successful and undesired outcomes (i.etroubleshooting)
  • Small group instruction
  • Provide facilitated experiences
  • AM/PM check in with preferred staff person
  • Use of prompt hierarchy
  • Incorporate child’s personal interests into activities whenever possible
  • Journal
  • Frequent reinforcement for desired/positive behaviors
  • When appropriate and will not cause a distraction- guide student through real life situations
  • Provide with calming strategies
  • Use of first ___________, then __________.
  • Peer modeling-appropriate play, interaction
  • Scheduled sensory breaks
  • Task strip with preferred activity at the end
  • Intersperse preferred and non-preferred tasks
  • Develop a sensory diet
  • Agenda check list for check-ins with preferred staff member
  • Intersperse easy and difficult demands on a 80/20 basis (and work to increase)
  • Pair with student prior to learning a new task
  • Give the opportunity for practice
  • Identify and limit distractions

Developing Your Child’s IEP

This resource from the Center for Parent Information and Resources, provides an overview of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. If you have a child with special needs, your child’s education is most likely an area of great interest to you. As a child with a disability, he or she may be eligible for special education services in school. If so, then it will be important for you to learn more about special education; how special education services can support your child; and what part you can play in the special education process.

This website provides information on the IEP process, IEP document, deciding your child’s placement, and participating in the IEP meeting.


Writing Effective Individualized Education Programs (IEP)

Criteria for Annual Goals

Measurable annual goals are at the core of a student’s individualized education program. Measurable annual goals must provide a clear description of the skills the student needs in order to access, participate, and make progress in the general educational curriculum. The goals must relate directly to the areas of need identified in the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance section of the IEP. Areas of need are determined by analyzing multiple sources of information, including evaluations, classroom-based assessments, student observations, and input from parents. A well-written measurable annual goal contains four parts: condition, student name, clearly defined behavior, and performance criteria.


The condition describes the situation in which the student will perform the behavior.

Examples: Given visual cues, during independent practice in math, using a self-monitoring checklist, using passages from content area classes, given a writing prompt, using a checklist of tasks on the job site, given picture checklists to follow, given a two-step direction, during lectures in social studies, using software with word prediction, using text-to-speech features

Student’s Name

Include student’s first name in the goal.Clearly Defined Behavior – This portion of a well-written goal specifically describes the target behavior in measurable and observable terms, using action verbs to state what the student will do. Use of vague terms (such as understand, recognize, discover) that cannot be observed directly or counted should not be used.

Examples: locate, name, rank, select, point to, solve, analyze, create, compare, describe, read orally

The Big Ideas, Concepts, and Competencies from Pennsylvania Core Standards found on the Standards Aligned System (SAS) portal (www.pdesas.org) outline what Pennsylvania students need to know and be able to do in various academic, social, and behavioral areas. The SAS portal is a valuable resource to aid in writing goals that are measurable and referenced to the standards.

Performance Criteria

There are three distinct components that must be included in the performance criteria of each annual goal:

1. Criterion level – Indicates the performance level the student must demonstrate.

Examples: Percent of time, number of times out of number of trials, with percent accurate on work sample, designated criterion level on a rubric or checklist,with ___ or fewer errors, words/dig-its/correct per minute, with no more than ___ occurrences of ___, with a score of ___ or better on skill specific rating scale, with designated criterion level movement on a prompting hierarchy, independently

2. Number- Indicate the number of times behavior must be performed at criterion level to reach mastery.

Examples: The student must complete: five out of six consecutive trials, eight consecutive days, four out of five consecutive weeks, three consecutive probes, three out of five random trials, four out of five trials, two times per week, tri-weekly

3. Evaluation Schedule/Method- Indicate how frequently the student will be assessed and the method of assessment.

Examples: The student will be assessed using: daily and weekly work samples; bi-weekly reading probes; teacher-developed, scoring rubrics

Specific specially designed instruction (SDI), accommodations, and modifications needed by the student to engage in and benefit from instruction in the curriculum may be listed with the annual goals or in the Special Education/Related Services/ Supplementary Aids and Services/ Program Modifications section of the IEP.

Examples of SDI: Use of an AAC device, text-to-speech software, specific seating arrangements, training for staff in specific procedures, specific behavioral supports

Examples of Effective Measurable Annual Goals

Given a three minute writing prompt and use of a computer with word prediction software, Emily will create a paragraph addressing the topic of the prompt, containing at least three complete sentences, with no more than two grammatical errors, on four out of five consecutive weekly probes.

Given a choice of three known items at various intervals during the day, Nasir will indicate his preference by signing, then taking the preferred item, with one or fewer prompts, on four out of five opportunities on three out of four consecutive days.

Using a visual schedule, Ben will shift from one school task or activity to the next throughout the school day, independently without verbal outbursts, 80 percent of opportunities, daily for two consecutive weeks.

§300.320 Definition of Individualized Education Program

(a) General. As used in this part, the term individualized education program or IEP means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with IDEA, Sec. 300.320 through 300.324, and that must include–

(2) (i) A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to–

(A) Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and

(B) Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability;

Department of Education, Fed. Reg. 34 CFR, Parts 300 and 301 (2006).

Assistive Technology in the Individualized Education Program (IEP)


Appropriate assistive technology (AT) devices and services can allow students with disabilities to participate in and benefit from the general education curriculum and to meet Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. For every student with an IEP, federal and state regulations require that the team
consider the student’s need for assistive technology devices and services.

IEPs should clearly reflect the AT needed and describe the manner in which it will be used, as well as the supports required. Because AT devices and services can take various forms and are appropriate for students with a broad range of academic and functional needs, team members need to understand the various options for thoughtfully considering and including AT in the IEP document.

How is AT defined in IDEA and in Pennsylvania special educaiton regulations?

IDEA 2004 and PA Chapters 14 and 711 define AT as both devices and services. The law makes it clear that the purpose of AT is to improve the functional capabilities of the child with a disability.

Assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device (34 CFR 300.5). The term AT device may refer to complex devices or software, as well as simple “low-tech” devices and solutions that may be available to many learners, but which the team decides are required by the student with an IEP as part of a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).

Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device (34 CFR 300.6). AT services may include:

  • Evaluation of AT needs
  • Purchasing, leasing, or providing for
    acquisition of AT
  • Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing,
    or adapting AT devices
  • Coordinating and using other therapies,
    interventions, or services with AT devices
  • Training or technical assistance in use or
    operation of AT for child, family, or team

Assistive technology services are those that are necessary to enable the student and/or IEP team to use any AT devices specified in the IEP.

What does it mean to consider AT?

Consideration of AT, in the context of IEP development, review, or revision, is intended to be a collaborative process in which team members determine whether AT devices or services are needed for the student to access the general education curriculum or meet IEP goals. Consideration may be brief or extended, and may necessitate that the IEP team include (or have access to) someone who has knowledge about AT or who can guide the team in considering AT in the context of what they know about the student. (See resources for more information on AT technical assistance.)

What questions might the IEP team ask when considering AT?

Consideration of AT, in the context of IEP development, review, or revision, is intended to be a collaborative process in which team members determine whether AT devices or services are needed for the student to access the general education curriculum or meet IEP goals. Consideration may be brief or extended, and may necessitate that the IEP team include (or have access to) someone who has knowledge about AT or who can guide the team in considering AT in the context of what they know about the student. (See resources for more information on AT technical assistance.)

What are possible outcomes of AT considerations?

  • When the team agrees that AT is not a necessary part of the IEP for the student, it is appropriate for the team to check “no” on the IEP document.
  • When AT that is already in place is considered effective or sufficient for the student (as specified in IEP), it is appropriate for the team to check “yes” on the IEP document.
  • When it is determined that the team needs more information, particularly if they are not certain if a student needs AT, or how AT may benefit the student, it is appropriate to check “yes” and further specify steps to be taken in the IEP. The team may decide to obtain AT consultation or conduct targeted AT assessment. These steps may introduce well planned trials of AT for identified curricular tasks, including data collection to determine effectiveness.

In all cases in which the team determines that the student is in need of AT, and checks “yes” on the special considerations portion of the IEP, AT must be addressed in the IEP document.

How might AT devices and services be documented in the IEP?

In addition to the consideration of special factors, described above, AT devices and services can be appropriately documented in the IEP in a number of areas. The following sections of the IEP are appropriate locations for documenting AT:

  • Special Considerations
  • Present Levels
  • Participation in State and Local
  • Transition Services
  • Annual Goals
  • Program Modifications and Specially
    Designed Instruction
  • Related Services
  • Supports for Personnel

Regardless of where in the IEP AT appears, the IEP document should clearly reflect the AT needed, describe the manner in which it will be used, and the supports required.

Should a specific AT product be named in the IEP document?

When describing the AT needed by the student, it is considered best practice to describe the features rather than brand name, because most devices and software have multiple features, not all of which may be required by the student to have FAPE. Listing the features may provide a more accurate description of what is needed by the student, and may be particularly helpful in providing back-up or temporary replacement for the AT in the event of breakdown. However, it is also acceptable to name a device in the IEP, when the IEP team determines that it is necessary.

Whos responsibility is it to provide AT for students who need it as part of their IEP's?

It is the responsibility of the local educational agency (LEA) to provide AT as identified within the IEP. IDEA states that, “Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in §§ 300.5 and 300.6, respectively, are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child’s special education, related services, or supplementary aids and services.

State and federal law do not require that the LEA purchase AT as needed in the IEP. It is appropriate for LEAs to purchase, rent or borrow AT, or to utilize AT that is acquired through the student’s insurance. However, the LEA may not require the family to utilize insurance or any other funding source. In the event that no alternative funding is available, the LEA remains responsible for the timely provision of AT needed as specified in the IEP.

When AT is provided for a student through a funding source other than the LEA, the LEA remains responsible for any costs related to repair, maintenance, or replacement of AT that is specified in the IEP.

Is it the responsibility of the LEA to provide AT for use at home or other locations?

On a case-by-case basis, the use of school purchased AT devices in a child’s home or in other settings is required if the child’s IEP team determines that the child needs access to those devices in order to receive FAPE (34 CFR 300.105). This may include providing AT devices or software when needed for homework, or for functional skills that are necessary across environments, such as communication using an augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) device.

What resources are available for IEP teams?

PaTTAN and IU Assistance: Technical assistance and training in AT is available from Assistive Technology consultants through intermediate units (IUs). Most IUs have local procedures for requesting technical assistance or training; teams are encouraged to contact the IU for more information. PaTTAN AT consultants may also provide assistance, in collaboration with IU staff. www.pattan.net/Assistive-Technology/AT-Decision-Making/Who-Can-Help

PaTTAN Short Term Loan: PaTTAN maintains a short-term loan library, which offers a broad array of AT devices. These AT devices are borrowed by LEAs and are used to determine the appropriateness of a particular device for an individual student, prior to the LEA or parent purchasing the equipment.

PIAT: Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT) provides information on AT to all Pennsylvanians who may need it. PIAT also operates the Pennsylvania AT Lending Collection, which can serve as another source for borrowing AT devices. disabilities.temple.edu/programs-services/assistive-technology

Developing an IEP Transition Plan

A toolkit to help Pennsylvania youth:

A toolkit to help transition age youth and their advocates prepare for IEP meetings and develop strong IEP transition plans. Allows youth and advocate to set goals, identify barriers and brainstorm possible services before the IEP meeting. A collaboration between Juvenile Law Center, Disability Rights Pennsylvania, and Education Law Center.


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Other downloads

Name Description Type File
IEP for Families IEP Tip Sheet pdf Download file: IEP for Families
Writing An Effective IEP Central to the creation of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) by the IEP team is development of measurable annual goals, which are based on a student’s current levels of academic and functional performance, and which should align to and reference the Pennsylvania standards. This publication, available on the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network’s (PaTTAN’s) website, focuses on the components of a well-written measurable annual goal. pdf Download file: Writing An Effective IEP
Assistive technolgoy in the IEP Appropriate assistive technology (AT) devices and services can allow students with disabilities to participate in and benefit from the general education curriculum and to meet Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. The purpose of this brochure is to provide guidance to the special educators, related service providers, and parents as they develop Individual Education Programs (IEP) for students using assistive technology. pdf Download file: Assistive technolgoy in the IEP

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.