Modified School Days and IEPs
If your child has an IEP or 504, can they get a shortened school day or modified school schedule as an accommodation? The short answer is yes. But, it’s not a simple yes/no question. There are many considerations for the IEP team to discuss to ensure that your child still receives FAPE.
This is a question that has been coming up more frequently lately. Your child has already been identified as having a disability. He/she already has an IEP or 504. Now, for whatever the reason, your child cannot attend the full school day or full school week. Does an IEP or 504 support a shortened or modified school day or school schedule?
What IDEA says about Shortened School Days
IDEA does not directly define this. The legislation itself and the large discussion texts do not mention this specific modification. At least not that I could find. At this point, I have actually read most of it, and I do a lot of Control F to get clarification on issues. I have looked and am unable to find it. (My point being, it may be there, but I did do my due diligence and spent quite a bit of time searching.)
However, it makes sense that it would not be in there. After all, the spirit of IDEA is that each child will receive supports and services specific to their needs. And, it’s not possible that any one piece of legislation could possibly list all of them.
However, I did find this tidbit on the OCR website.
Oddly, this is in response to questions about “hidden disabilities.” So, I would think that it would apply to all disabilities.
OCR Examples on Shortened School Days
The bullet points below are directly from the OCR website. Bold is mine.
The following examples illustrate how schools can address the needs of their students with hidden disabilities.
- A student with a long-term, debilitating medical problem such as cancer, kidney disease, or diabetes may be given special consideration to accommodate the student’s needs. For example, a student with cancer may need a class schedule that allows for rest and recuperation following chemotherapy.
- A student with a learning disability that affects the ability to demonstrate knowledge on a standardized test or in certain testing situations may require modified test arrangements, such as oral testing or different testing formats.
- A student with a learning disability or impaired vision that affects the ability to take notes in class may need a note taker or tape recorder.
- A student with a chronic medical problem such as kidney or liver disease may have difficulty in walking distances or climbing stairs. Under Section 504, this student may require special parking space, sufficient time between classes, or other considerations, to conserve the student’s energy for academic pursuits.
- A student with diabetes, which adversely affects the body’s ability to manufacture insulin, may need a class schedule that will accommodate the student’s special needs.
- A student may need an adjusted class schedule to allow time for regular counseling or therapy.
- A student with epilepsy who has no control over seizures, and whose seizures are stimulated by stress or tension, may need accommodation for such stressful activities as lengthy academic testing or competitive endeavors in physical education.
- A student with arthritis may have persistent pain, tenderness or swelling in one or more joints. A student experiencing arthritic pain may require a modified physical education program.
So, there you go. Directly from the horse’s mouth. “Great,” you might be thinking. “Now how do I get my team on board.”
How to Get Shortened School Days on an IEP or 504.
You may want to print that bit off of the OCR website, just to demonstrate that it is allowed as a consideration. Right away, this will help you overcome the “well, we can’t do that…” You can, if it’s appropriate for the child.
- Gather your Data. Remember, IEPs are needs driven and data driven. Supports and services and modifications are given based on needs, not diagnosis. Your first step is to gather your data. You will need records, emails, doctor’s visit recaps, etc. to demonstrate that this is a need.
- Make a written request for an IEP Meeting. Next, you’ll want to ask for an IEP meeting to discuss this. Request a meeting and list what you want to discuss.
- Include your Parent Concerns as reason for calling the meeting. How is a full day/week adversely affecting your child? And how is that affecting their ability to access FAPE? If something happens during the school day, always follow up with an email to the school staff person who was in charge at that particular moment. This helps to make your case that full day/week attendance is interfering with FAPE.
- Prepare for and attend the IEP meeting. Ask for the Shortened/Modified Day. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as you already have data and have sent them your concerns. Have solutions ready.
- Do your After IEP Meeting Letter. Everyone skips this step. Don’t.
- Wait for your final IEP and PWN. And read your Procedural Safeguards. Another step that most parents skip. Don’t.
Every IEP request you make follows the same basic IEP Process.
Have a Plan to Move Forward.
It’s common sense. If your child is in school X number of fewer hours than his/her peers, he is going to miss out on X number of instruction hours. That’s not a decision to be taken lightly. And, you must be prudent to assure that this not cause the gap between your child and his/her peers to widen.
Here are some questions that you should be discussing with your IEP team. I have included a printable below so that you can take it to your IEP meeting.
- How many hours/days per week will the child miss?
- What is the plan for the schedule? How can this be scheduled so as to minimize the time away from school? And, the time away from the priority classes?
- Is there another course of action to consider? Can the child rest in the nurse’s or counselor’s office for 30-60 minutes? Is there an alternative to missing school, that has not been considered?
- What coursework is the child going to miss? And how will that be handled?
- For the child, what is the plan to build up their endurance so that this is not a permanent solution? What are the barriers to attending 5 full days a week, and what can be done to overcome them?
- How will the child’s grades be handled for work missed during this time?
- If the child misses scheduled therapy time, how will that be handled?
- What happens as far as transportation?
- If the child is up to attending the full day, who can they tell, and when? What check-ins during the week will happen to make sure that the child is encouraged to attend if they feel up to it?
- How will progress be measured and monitored on this accommodation? When will the IEP team reconvene to discuss this? (in my opinion, this shouldn’t go a full year)
Here are more resources for you to read and learn about the IEP process. To answer your question–yes, a shortened or modified school schedule is an allowed accommodation per the OCR. But, like anything else on the IEP, it’s a team decision. Use the IEP process.