IEP Compensatory Services

Wow, we have so much to think about. For schools being closed for 3 months, (ha! 3 months, I was so naive!) I have never thought about an IEP as much as I have in the past few weeks. Many school districts are already wrapped up for the 19/20 year and most others close this week or next. But, ESY, Comp Ed, Distance Learning...IEP parents have a lot to think about when it comes to their kids.

So, before you throw school stuff away and get out those swimsuits, you should probably do some thinking and a brain dump. And, reach out and email your IEP team and resolve these issues if you haven’t already.

What are Compensatory IEP Services?

Compensatory services are educational services needed to make up for skills or learning that have been lost when services described in an IEP were not provided. This may come in the form of scheduled services or in the form of a lump sum of money (Comp Ed). It has been my experience during COVID that schools are offering services and not direct funding.

New for 2021: Click button below to see the official guidance for IEP Compensatory Education for All 50 States. Please note, this information changes frequently so do your due diligence and double check that this is the latest guidance provided by your state.

Not the same as ESY.

ESY services provide individualized instruction and services to prevent the severe or substantial loss of skills or learning during the time beyond the regular school year when schools are not in session. Compensatory Services may be provided as part of ESY, but ESY should not serve as a substitute for the Comp Services owed to your child.

What does your State say about this?

A school district should NOT suggest, encourage, or pressure families to waive special education services for students, including compensatory services.

Please note, this information is for information purposes only and is NOT official guidance or to be construed as legal advice. If you wish to pursue remediation or a comp ed claim, please see an attorney.

I have many resources regarding the COVID 19 school shutdowns, distance learning, documenting regression, and much more here. I have them listed at the end of this post.

Here are a couple of the guiding questions for you and your IEP team to discuss:

Evaluation/Reevaluation Issues

Was your child in the middle of an IEP initial evaluation or IEP re-evaluation? If so, were those evaluations paused or delayed? Did the pandemic shutdown cause a delay in needed services? Or regression?

IEP Service Considerations during Shutdown

▪ How has your LEA communicated with families regarding services provided and not provided? If you received NO communication from the school, your child may be eligible for compensatory services. Many school districts did absolutely nothing during the pandemic.

▪ Does your state’s Emergency Contingency Guidance, or similar guidance from your specific school district, outline or mention planning for possible compensatory supports? In other words, compare the state and local guidance with your child’s IEP. What’s missing? And, what instruction was NOT provided?

▪ Was your child provided instruction or services via an alternative method (e.g. online math instruction, online speech therapy, or instruction provided telephonically) during the closure?

▪ Were those alternative methods of instruction and services provided to the student as beneficial for the student as the methods normally used to serve the student? Did they make progress toward goals?

▪ Was the student able to access the instruction and services? I’ve heard a lot of parents talk about their child not being able to do distance learning. Did your child have meaningful participation?

▪ Is there clear documentation of the amount of instruction and services the student was provided during the closure (including dates, times, and duration)? If so, what amount of instruction and services did the student receive? Did you document when and what types of instruction were provided? See! This is why I was nagging you back in March and April.

▪ How will the LEA clearly communicate the amount of instruction and time required of compensatory services so that parents, as members of the IEP team, can be ensured meaningful participation in the decision-making process? You should participate in an IEP meeting to discuss compensatory services. And, not just have a document sent home for you to agree to. A PWN should be provided.

▪ How will the LEAs monitor service times and notify families of completion? How will progress monitoring be done? Just like typical IEP progress, there will need to be a way to document that your child is making progress with compensatory services. Make sure you know exactly what your child will be able to do for the school to say they are finished. If your child has new baselines, the goal should be a restoration to previous baselines.

▪ What percentage of the student’s IEP supports and services did the student actually receive?

▪ Are there indications that the student regressed either academically or non-academically during the closure? Has the student lost any specific skills?

▪ How can the IEP team address the need to make up these skill deficits without overwhelming both kids and families? I always give the example of my own son. In normal times, he is programmed from 8-5:30 every day M-F yearround. Much as I’d like him to have them, compensatory services are just not an option for us, as there are only so many hours in a day and he needs downtime too. If you are given either services or funds for services, when will they take place? Will more “specials” and free time and extracurriculars have to be missed? It’s important to find balance.

covid planner pages
Click Image if you’d like to receive these FREE IEP Covid Planner Pages.

So is it ESY or Comp Services?

If it’s possible to be done in your state, for many families, it’s completely appropriate to ask for a beefed-up ESY program. And, trying to balance that with a fun summer, and some needed relaxation. Summer might be the only time that your child has. So you’re asking for compensatory services to be delivered during the summer. Or, for the ESY time to be extended so that your child can receive ESY and compensatory services.

The key point here is this: It is entirely possible to be owed some compensatory services, but your child still doesn’t qualify for ESY. You can qualify for one, the other, or both.

But chances are, your child wouldn’t ONLY qualify for ESY–as if they stand to regress during the summer, they’ve likely regressed during pandemic distance learning too. But my guess is that somewhere out there, this scenario would be feasible. Again, using my son: he’d qualify for both, but I’m only asking for ESY and not comp services because there’s no way for us to implement them.

Does that make sense? If your child normally doesn’t qualify for ESY, then they likely wouldn’t this year, either. But you’re not asking for ESY. You’re asking for compensatory services.

What to ask the IEP team.

Once you’ve pondered all the questions above and reviewed your child’s IEP, you have a few options to ask for.

  • Nothing. Just roll with whatever they offer, whatever that might be.
  • Compensatory IEP Services-dates, times, amounts to be determined by IEP team.
  • ESY-Still an IEP team decision
  • Compensatory IEP Services AND ESY-Yes, some kids will need both. Or be eligible for both.

Here are some free worksheets and printables to get you started.


As with everything else, do your request in writing. Meet, or handle the issue over email. Follow up with a PWN.

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