Changing a program for a child with special needs

child-and-teacherWhether you have a baby or toddler with an IFSP, or a child age 3 or older with an IEP, starting a new school year may mean you need to make some adjustments. So, even if you thought you had a great program in place to help your little one, he may have changed so much over the summer that now you need to tweak it a bit.

The thing about kids is that they are constantly changing. Just when you think you have it all figured out, and a program in place to meet his needs, he will go and change on you! This can be a good thing, but it can also present a challenge if you need to adjust your child’s early intervention or educational plan to keep up with his needs.

Change the program as your child changes

It is so important to remember that an IFSP or an IEP is individualized. It is not one-size-fits-all. It is supposed to be custom made to meet your child’s unique needs. So, it stands to reason that making adjustments in keeping with your child’s growth or needs makes sense. For example, often a child will make strides over a summer – the different environment or summer program may have enabled him to blossom. Yet, for another child, a summer away from his related services (such as specific therapies), preschool or school environment may result in a regression, and now you are back-tracking to get to the level of function your child exhibited before the summer set in. Whatever his needs, as your child adjusts back in to the routine of September, remember that you have the ability to meet with your child’s IFSP or IEP team and make changes to his program, as needed.

Parents are members of the IFSP or IEP team, so you can request a meeting to discuss updates to your child’s plan. You are not limited to the number of times that you can change your child’s program. Good communication between parents and the service provider (the therapy center, school, etc.) is key.

Bottom line

Adjusting to a new school year is tough on everyone – you, your child, your family, your child’s teachers and therapists. With good communication and patience, hopefully, you will be able to stay on top of the little bumps in the road so that they do not become big ones.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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2 Responses to “Changing a program for a child with special needs”

  1. Maureen McGill Says:

    Please address the needs of a child with above average intelligence, that is, off the chart. These children can be overlooked in the school system because they test well. They get bored with a standard curriculum and that can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for school and underachieving. I have a specific child in mind who was a 35 week old preemie and is now in regular school grade 1 who reads on a 7th or 8th grade level.

  2. Barbara Says:


    Thanks for your comment about the specific needs of gifted children. To learn if your state offers funding and programming for gifted children, go to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and click on your state.

    Education for a gifted child does not fall under the rules and regulations for special education UNLESS the gifted child also has a diagnosed learning disability (which is entirely possible). This is known as ”twice-exceptional” or “2e.” If a child is 2e, then she is eligible for an IEP based on her disability. Learn more about giftedness education and 2e kids, and profoundly gifted kids on Wrightslaw’s website.

    I hope this helps!
    March of Dimes

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