A Guide to Specially Designed Instruction

SDI's: Where the rubber hits the road

SDIs are important to help children with disabilities participate fully with their typical peers. KETV

The Specially Designed Instruction (SDIs) section of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) is one of the most important parts of this important document. The special education teacher, with the IEP Team determines what accommodations and modifications the student will be receiving. As a legal document, the IEP not only binds the special educator but the whole school population in terms of every member of the community must deal with this child. Extended test time, frequent bathroom breaks, whatever "SDI's" are written into the IEP must be provided by the principal, the librarian, the gym teacher, the lunchroom monitor, the general education teacher as well as the special education teacher. Failure to provide those accommodations and modifications can create serious legal jeopardy for the members of the school community who ignore them.

SDI's fall into two categories: accommodations and modifications. Some people use the terms interchangeably, but legally they are not the same. Children with 504 plans will have accommodations but not modifications in their plans. Children with IEP's can have both.

Accommodations: These are changes in the way in which the child is treated in order to best accommodate the child's physical, cognitive or emotional challenges. They might include:

  • Extended time for tests (the standard is one and a half times as long as allowed, but for academic tests in most general education classrooms unlimited time is not uncommon.)
  • Frequent test breaks
  • The ability to move around the classroom (especially kids with ADHD)
  • Bathroom breaks when needed.
  • Special seating (in front of class, separated from peers)
  • A water bottle at the student's desk (some medications create dry-mouth.)

Modifications: These change the academic or curricular demands made of a child to better fit the child's ability. Modifications might include the following:

  • Modified homework
  • 10 words on spelling tests
  • Scribing (the teacher or an aide writes the responses as dictated by a child.
  • Separate modified tests in content areas.
  • Alternate forms of assessment: dictating, oral retelling, portfolios

It's good to have a conversation with other teachers who sees a child as you are preparing the IEP. (See Writing an IEP) to discuss SDI's,. especially if you need to prepare that teacher to deal with an accommodation they are not going to like (like bathroom breaks without requests. Expect this request from parents, and expect general ed teachers to fight it. Some children have medications that make them need to urinate frequently.)

Once an IEP is signed, and the IEP meeting is over, be sure every teacher who sees the child gets a copy of the IEP. It is also important that you go over the SDI's and discuss how they are going to be carried out. This is one place a general educator can cause him or herself some serious grief with parents. This is also a place where that same teacher can earn the trust and support of those parents.