Specially Designed Instruction

Posted by Angie Balsley on 2/23/2018 7:00:00 AM

Have you ever paused to consider what’s “special” about special education? You may think that the IEP is special; and It is. You may think of components of a student’s IEP as being special; they are. However, the true “meat and potatoes” of special education comes in the form of the teaching and instruction we provide to students so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Not long ago, IIEP was revised. The “needs box” was renamed as “specially designed instruction” within the program. This change prompted teachers to describe the specially designed instruction (SDI)  they will be providing to the student to meet each goal.


Being prompted to describe the SDI while crafting a goal surprised many educators who thought that this was a new requirement within the law. Although the requirement to describe the SDI is newer, the provision of the law is not new. Article 7 (7-32-88) states that “specially designed instruction” means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of the student who is eligible for special education and related services, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to

  1. Address the unique needs of the student that result from the student’s disability; and
  2. Ensure the student’s access to the general education curriculum so the student can meet the educational standards… that apply to all students.

Recently, the Indiana Department Office of Special Education released a guidance document entitled Spread The Word on Specifically Designed Instruction. Information included with the document defines what SDI is, and what it is not. It also provides an extensive, though not exhaustive, list of instructional practices and strategies used by teachers as examples of SDI. The communication concludes with a Q&A, resources, and references. I highly encourage you to review the document and consider the specially designed instruction you are providing for your students to enable them to meet their goals.