The IEP must contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. We’ve split up the discussion of each of these important elements, because there is so much to say about each. This article focuses on supplementary aids and services.

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IDEA’s Exact Words

Again, let’s start with IDEA’s full requirement for identifying the supplementary aids and services a child will need and specifying them in his or her IEP. This appears at §300.320(a)(4) and stipulates that each child’s IEP must contain:

(4) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child—

(i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;

(ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and

(iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this section… [§300.320(a)(4)]

We’ve bolded the part of IDEA’s regulation that specifically mentions supplementary aids and services, because it’s important to see the context in which this term is used. It is that context, and IDEA’s own definition of supplementary aids and services, that will guide how a child’s IEP team considers what services the child needs and the detail with which the team specifies them in the IEP.

The Short Story on Supplementary Aids and Services

Supplementary aids and services are often critical elements in supporting the education of children with disabilities in regular classes and their participation in a range of another school activities. IDEA’s definition of this term (at §300.42) reads:

Supplementary aids and services means aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate …

Speaking practically, supplementary aids and services can be accommodations and modifications to the curriculum under study or the manner in which that content is presented or a child’s progress is measured. But that’s not all they are or can be. Supplementary aids and services can also include:

  • direct services and supports to the child, and
  • support and training for staff who work with that child.

That’s why determining what supplementary aids and services are appropriate for a particular child must be done on an individual basis.

Examples from the Field

The definition of “supplementary aids and services” was new in IDEA ’97. Since then, the field has fleshed out the definition through practice. Numerous states have developed IEP guides that include both the regulatory definition of “supplementary aids and services” and examples to guide IEP teams in their considerations of what a student might need. Here are some examples that the New Mexico Public Education Department (2004) provides online that you may find illuminating:

Supports to address environmental needs (e.g., preferential seating; planned seating on the bus, in the classroom, at lunch, in the auditorium, and in other locations; altered physical room arrangement)

Levels of staff support needed (e.g., consultation, stop-in support, classroom companion, one-on-one assistance; type of personnel support: behavior specialist, health care assistant, instructional support assistant)

Planning time for collaboration needed by staff

Child’s specialized equipment needs (e.g., wheelchair, computer, software, voice synthesizer, augmentative communication device, utensils/cups/plates, restroom equipment)

Pacing of instruction needed (e.g., breaks, more time, home set of materials)

Presentation of subject matter needed (e.g., taped lectures, sign language, primary language, paired reading and writing)

Materials needed (e.g., scanned tests and notes into computer, shared note-taking, large print or Braille, assistive technology)

Assignment modification needed (e.g., shorter assignments, taped lessons, instructions broken down into steps, allow student to record or type assignment)

Self-management and/or follow-through needed (e.g., calendars, teach study skills)

Testing adaptations needed (e.g., read test to child, modify format, extend time)

Social interaction support needed (e.g., provide Circle of Friends, use cooperative learning groups, teach social skills)

Training needed for personnel

Making the Short Story Longer

As said above, considering the supplementary aids and supports that a child needs should take into account the academic, extracurricular, and nonacademic environments available to, and of interest to, the child. That pretty much covers the gamut of school settings where children might be engaged in learning, interaction, and development, doesn’t it?

The last two elements—extracurricular and nonacademic—are actually new to IDEA in 2004. Consistent with the inclusive nature of the legislation, the final Part B regulations have added the phrase “in extracurricular and nonacademic settings” to the definition of supplementary aids and services and, thus, enlarged the scope of where supplementary aids and services must be provided, as appropriate to the child’s needs.

Considering NIMAS

And while we’re on the subject of supports that really do support children, what about the role that NIMAS can play? NIMAS is a new and exciting addition to IDEA intended to greatly improve access to instructional materials for blind or other persons with print disabilities—textbooks and workbooks, for example. (NIMAS stands for National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard.)

Now, following the standard set by NIMAS, print materials can be rendered into a wide range of accessible formats, including Braille, large print, audio text, or digital text. For students who are blind, or who cannot use standard print materials, having access to a format they can use will be a huge leap forward, educationally.

Statistics from the 26th Annual Report to Congress

Given the importance of supplementary aids and services in supporting children’s access to the general curriculum and to the range of school environments, let’s take a look at what types of supplementary aids and services children with disabilities are actually receiving. According to the SEELS School Program Survey and as reported in the 26th Annual Report to Congress on the implementation of IDEA (U.S. Department of Education, 2006), about 85% of elementary or middle-school children with disabilities in regular education language arts classes have some type of support indicated on their IEP or 504 plan. Looking at the specific accommodations and supports they receive, we find that:

61.9% are provided extra time to take tests or complete assignments.
36.8% are given shorter or different assignments.
35.3% have tests read to them.
33.4% take modified tests.
33.3% receive feedback more frequently than other children.
30.4% receive slower-paced instruction.
0.7% are provided physical adaptations.

Other learning supports provided to these children in language arts classes include the following:

  • Progress monitored by special education teacher: 51.9%
  • Teacher aides, instructional assistants, or other personal aides: 27.5%
  • Learning strategies/study skills: 24.2%
  • Peer tutor: 22.9%
  • Books on tape: 14.5%
  • Use of computer for activities not allowed other children: 11.2%
  • Reader or interpreter: 10.3%
  • Behavior management program: 9.8%
  • Communication aids: 3.2%

Suppose a Child Needs…

Suppose a child needs a specific supplementary aid or service that’s typically provided in separate environments, not in the regular education classroom? Does this mean that the needed supplementary aid or service doesn’t have to be provided? Or that the child’s placement may then be somewhere other than the regular educational environment?

No, to both questions. The public agency is responsible for providing the supplementary aids and services that the IEP team determines the child needs and lists in the child’s IEP in order to enable the child to be educated in regular education settings with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.

The fact that supplementary aids and services often play a decisive role in whether or not the child can be satisfactorily educated in the regular educational environment makes it all the more important that the public agency meet its responsibility to provide them. If the IEP team has determined that the child can be satisfactorily educated in the regular classroom with the support of a given supplementary aid or service, those aids or services must be specified in the child’s IEP and must be provided to the child. (71 Fed Reg. 46588)

Concluding Words

A fair amount of time and space has been devoted to this discussion of supplementary aids and services. For many children with disabilities, these are pivotal elements in their participation in school-related settings, activities, and learning opportunities.

Would you like to read about another component of the IEP?

Use the links below to explore the different parts of the IEP and the details associated with each.

Present Levels | How is the child currently doing in school? How does the disability affect his or her performance in class? This type of information is captured in the “present levels” statement in the IEP.

Annual Goals | Once a child’s needs are identified, the IEP team works to develop appropriate goals to address those needs. Annual goal describe what the child is expected to do or learn within a 12-month period.

Benchmarks or Short-Term Objectives | Benchmarks or short-term objectives are required only for children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards. If you’re wondering what that means, this article will tell you!

Measuring & Reporting Progress | Each child’s IEP must also contain a description of how his or her progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and when it will be reported to parents. Learn more about how to write this statement in this short article.

Special Education | The IEP must contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. This article focuses on the first element: a statement of the special education that will be provided for the child.

Related Services | To help a child with a disability benefit from special education, he or she may also need extra help in one area or another, such as speaking or moving. This additional help is called related services. Find out all about these critical services here.

Supplementary Aids and Services | Supplementary aids and services are intended to improve children’s access to learning and their participation across the spectrum of academic, extracurricular, and nonacademic activities and settings. The IEP team must determine what supplementary aids and services a child will need and specify them in the IEP.

Extent of Nonparticipation | The IEP must also include an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in other school settings and activities. Read how this connects to IDEA’s foundational principle of LRE.

Service Delivery | When will the child begin to receive services? Where? How often? How long will a “session” last? Pesky details, but important to include in the IEP!

Transition Planning | Beginning no later than a student’s 16th birthday (and younger, if appropriate), the IEP must contain transition-related plans designed to help the student prepare for life after secondary school.

Age of Majority | Beginning at least one year before the student reaches the age of majority, the IEP must include a statement that the student has been told about the rights (if any) that will transfer to him or her at age of majority. What is “age of majority” and what does this statement in the IEP look like?