Special Factors in the IEP

Most of the questions that we receive as educational advocates are about the implementation of the IEP. Let’s face it. It is not an easy document to understand at times because of it’s length and format. But there are the special factors on an IEP that you should be considering when developing your student’s IEP. It’s one of the first few pages of most IEPs.

special factors IEP

IEP Special Factors

IDEA: Special Factors on the IEP

IDEA’s regulations for considering these special factors appear at §300.324(a)(2)(i)-(v) and read as follows:

(2) Consideration of special factors. The IEP Team must—

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(i) In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior;

(ii) In the case of a child with limited English proficiency, consider the language needs of the child as those needs relate to the child’s IEP;

(iii) In the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP Team determines, after an evaluation of the child’s reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the child’s future needs for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille), that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the child;

(iv) Consider the communication needs of the child, and in the case of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, consider the child’s language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the child’s language and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode; and

(v) Consider whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services. [§300.324(a)(2)]

The IEP team must determine if any of these factors are relevant for the child and, if so, address the factor in the child’s IEP.

Consideration of Special Factors on an IEP

If any of the above special factors are causing the student to have issues that “impede his/her ability to learn or others to learn in the educational setting” then special arrangements or accommodations must be made. Or in the case of assistive technology, would Assistive Technology (AT) give the student better access to their education and better facilitate learning?

Many of the special factors require additional testing to be requested from the parent. This can be discussed at the IEP table and then a PTE should be issued with the proper evaluations requested.

Once you have the evaluations completed, an evaluation review would take place (an FBA review would take place from a BCBA-Board Certified Behavioral Specialist for the behavior issues). Then recommendations should be made by the IEP team as to how to implement the strategies or accommodations to address the need.

As with much of the IEP process, it takes much follow-up and diligence on the parents’ part to ensure that the student is receiving proper services.

When the IEP Team Misses the Mark on Special Factors

As an advocate, I have run into quite a few situations with kids who had overlapping issues. Again, it takes diligence on the part of the parents to make sure that their child’s specific needs are being addressed.

Some examples of what I have run into:

  • ELL/ESL students who were very fluent in English but kept in ELL classes, rather than addressing underlying reading disabilities (which were later uncovered).
  • Students have behavior issues that were a result of a manifestation of their disability, but it was handled in punitive rather than restorative ways, and not addressed through an IEP or behavior plan.
  • Schools reluctant to fully commit to checking off the AT box under “special factors” because they did not want to fully commit to the student or make the effort.
  • The reverse of the above point-schools very quick to give a child an AT device rather than address the underlying need, such as working on handwriting.
  • Overuse of behavior checkbox, and only addressing behaviors and behavior plans, rather than the underlying issue (such as being frustrated because they can’t learn and feel stupid) of the behaviors.

Like anything else with IEPs, it should be individualized and you have to pick your battles. I have seen kids get adequate and needed AT without having the boxes checked. So I don’t know if that is battle I would pick if my child had what they needed. Open communication with your team is key. Grappling with emotions is another. I once had a mom, and myself, her team and her child all felt that the child had pretty much maxed-out on handwriting. That with her disabilities, the handwriting wasn’t going to improve. The team was actually pushing for AT, but mom was against it. So every situation is different. My main concern is always that the IEP Present Levels section is complete and hopefully the rest falls into place.

 {Editor’s note: This post was originally authored and published by Michele D in November of 2011. It was updated, edited just a touch and republished today. This is part of an ongoing effort to update older posts to ensure that all information is accurate.}

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