Special Factors in the IEP


IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) lists five special factors that the IEP team must consider in the development, review, and revision of each child’s IEP. The special factors listed on the Parent Information and Resource Center website include:


Graphic for Positive Behavioral Support Tiers 1-3.
Graphic for Positive Behavioral Support Tiers 1-3.

Schools are required to have structured guidelines to address behavioral challenges for all children. For example, all students must conform to school policies on dress. Students who are chronically tardy may be required to attend an additional study hall after regular school hours.

There are actually defined tiers of support that should be provided as needed for students including students who need an Active Learning approach because of significant developmental delays.

If you go to the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports page of this website you can learn more about these special factors.

Limited English Proficiency, Blindness, Visual Impairments and Communication Needs

Because development has been delayed as a result of significant physical, sensory, cognitive and/or emotional issues, students with significant disabilities generally have limited English proficiency and huge deficits in communication. The child may be a part of a family who is non-English speaking as well. Sometimes all of this means they are not necessarily able to benefit from the same instructional activities as their peers.

You cannot understand a story someone reads during circle time if you don’t what any of the words mean. A book about plants can be meaningless unless you have had ample opportunities to learn about plants using all your available senses. Without a conceptual framework you have no place to attach new information. Without language tied to these foundational concepts you may be unable to problem-solve and share your findings with others. Active Learning provides learning environments and activities as an instructional strategy to reduce barriers to learning for the child.

All students with visual impairments, blindness and deafblindness face challenges related to communication and language development, even if they do not have additional physical and cognitive challenges.  Individual adult-child interaction time using Active Learning approaches provides a strong foundation for communication and may include use of other languages such as Spanish or Sign Language.

An Active Learning approach should not prevent a student from participating in activities with peers during regular classroom instruction. However, special care must be made during group instruction to insure it has meaning for the child.

Mention of hands-on time with materials prior to or during group instruction and individual adult-child interaction on a daily basis using an Active Learning approach should be included in the IEP as a special consideration.

Assistive Technology

Another thing to be note in this portion of the IEP is the need for assistive technology.  The pieces of equipment utilized in Active Learning (e.g., Resonance Board, Little Room, or HOPSA dress) are considered assistive technology. These may be needed, for example, to:

    • develop specific motor skills needed to travel or eat,
    • to teach spatial orientation for the purpose of orientation and mobility,
    • to increase awareness of the auditory qualities of various sources of sound targeted during auditory training, or
    • to produce specific speech sounds during speech therapy.

Make sure to include specific Active Learning equipment and materials as needed assistive technology in the IEP.

Collage of special factors in IEP