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What are Special Education Services?

The IEP must contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child. (§300.18; §300.320) I want to break these areas down and discuss what each of these sections require.

Special Education Services mean specially designed instruction.

It is not uncommon even among special education teachers and administrators that there is a misunderstanding about what exactly what special education is. Special Education services are specially designed instruction.

Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the child that result from their disability. In addition, ensuring the child has access to the general curriculum to meet the educational standards that apply to all children.

Special education is meant to provide a child with a disability with the skills, techniques, and strategies designed with the unique needs of the child in mind that result from their particular disabilities aimed at mitigating the effects of those disabilities.

Specially designed instruction does not merely provide momentary access to information. Instead, it creates knowledge in a child with a disability by teaching a transferrable set of skills that can be used across settings and time.

It is not uncommon that service times written in the IEP are written according to the bell schedule instead of the student's needs. For example, if a class period is 55 minutes, the IEP will often say that the student will have 55 minutes of special education service. However, it is not the length of a class period or the mere presence of a special education teacher that equates with specially designed instruction. For example, suppose a student is in a special education resource class for 55 minutes/day. In that case, they may receive academic support (assistance with assignments or practice and reinforcement) from a paraprofessional or another student for 15 minutes, may work independently for 15 minutes, may be involved in the general curriculum for 15 minutes and may receive specially designed instruction for only 10 minutes.

Carefully document in the IEP the anticipated amount of time the student will receive specially designed instruction, not just the amount of time they are in a special education environment. The information on the IEP service page and in the LRE statement should clarify the anticipated amount of specially designed instruction the student will receive and layout the anticipated breakdown of time the student will be in a special education environment and how that time will be devoted.

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