An African American teacher provides specially designed instruction to a student sitting at a desk in a diverse classroom

Specially designed instruction, defined by IDEA as “adaptations to the content, method, or delivery of instruction,” is the foundation of special education. The purpose of specially designed instruction is to address the student’s unique learning needs caused his or her disability in order to remove barriers, accelerate the trajectory of learning, and enable the student to approach or achieve the grade-level standards for all students.

Each student’s specially designed instruction is an individualized combination of instructional strategies, goals, accommodations, supplementary aids and services, program modifications, personnel supports, special education, and related services selected to meet the needs identified in the student’s IEP document. The nature of the adaptations, as well as the frequency and intensity, is determined by the IEP team in response to the student’s learner characteristics, the gap between the student’s current performance and the standards, and their expectations for “ambitious but attainable” progress.

Specially designed instruction is provided by a collaborative team of educators and related service providers in all environments as appropriate. In a school implementing an Integrated Tiered System of Supports, specially designed instruction is utilized to ensure that students with disabilities have access to and benefit from all tiers of support by adapting universal core instruction, appropriate interventions, and non-academic environments and activities.

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