Puzzle pieces fitting togetherIDEA 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:

Positive Behavioral and Intervention Supports (PBIS) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)


According to IDEA (§300.324(a)(2)(i)-(v)) the IEP team should also address any positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) needed to address behavior that impedes learning. Information documented in the Functional Scheme evaluation sections on Developmentally Impeding Functions helps to identify some of these behaviors.

For many of these students who need Active Learning, trust, bonding, and communication supports are the key to reducing these barriers to learning for the child.  Some students may require one-on-one instruction to be able to access a lesson. Some students may retreat into sleep if overwhelmed by demands. Others may become overly excited in busy, noisy environments.

Utilizing specific instructional strategies such as offering (Phase 1), imitation (Phase 2), interaction (Phase 3), sharing the work (Phase 4) and consequences (Phase 5) helps the child develop the social and emotional skills needed to participate in learning with on his/her own and with others.  So the IEP team may want to specify the use of these strategies during instructional activities. 

The IEP team also may want to specify that a certain amount of time each day be spent in independent learning environments. That way the child can learn to initiate activity without prompts from an adult or peer.


Many students functioning below 48 months are on strong medications that impact their behavior. Some have different neural or organ system function as a result of a syndrome or seizure disorder. Sensory deprivation as a result of vision or hearing loss, tactile defensiveness as a result of early medical interventions or improper techniques of interaction, extremely limited communication skills, and other things can all play a part in behavioral challenges.

Sometimes behaviors are present because the student is simply bored and has very little to engage his/her interests.  Self-stimulation, which may occur at times, can become highly distractible behaviors if not addressed appropriately. (Read Stereotypical Behaviors and Self-Stimulation on the Active Learning Space website.)

As in other areas of development most of these students have severe developmental delays in the areas of Social and Emotional Development. Behavioral Intervention Plans (BIP) may be developed for the student during the IEP meeting. This may be necessary if the student is not able to regulate their own behavior. 

The Five Phases of Educational Treatment guide the adults working with the child to utilize instructional approaches that support development of higher level social and emotional skills development. Many times the developmentally impeding functions fade or disappear when fewer emotional demands are made as a part of instruction.  Specifying the use of these instructional strategies in a BIP may be needed.

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.

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.

IEP factors collage