National Policy
• Published
June 21, 2021

Changing the Decades-Old IEP Document

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Nearly a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, families with special needs children are still struggling with the major transition to online learning. The Department of Education (DOE) says that if public education boards, known as Local Educational Agencies (LEA), "...close their schools to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, and do not provide any educational services to the general student population, then LEA would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period of time." In short, LEA are burdening parents and siblings to account for lacking educational services normally provided by in-school professionals. As a result, educational quality has declined for special education students. With no reasonable solution proposed by the DOE, we took the initiative to develop an innovative solution addressing the troubling issue of special education students receiving inadequate educational services. 

Students, families, and teachers are struggling with the DOE’s poor administration of special education services during the pandemic. Special education educators have an obligation to follow a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)—a document in which every student with a disability or health concern (D/H) has their Present Educational Performance, Goals, and Supplementary Aids and Services documented. Unfortunately, the IEP has had no change since it was first introduced in 1975. As we develop technologically and face more varying life circumstances, IEPs must be amended to reflect such change. 

A picture of the "Service" section we would like to change.

We propose the addition of a new row within the Services section on the IEP document that describes a special education student’s accommodations during a remote learning period. This section will be filled out by the student’s school IEP board based on its own professional discretion. Implementing this will allow special-needs students to receive proper educational services through in-person schooling. Students with special learning needs are becoming increasingly stressed due to the virtual environment, subsequently causing them to "fall behind” in their studies. Unlike remote learning, in-person instruction allows students to stay focused and receive more immediate, personalized guidance. By allowing eligible students to have in-person learning, we will bring students with special learning needs back to a setting they are accustomed to, while also lifting the burden off of their guardians.

 Leandra Elion, a lecturer in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, claims, "Parents of special-needs children have struggled through a trial-and-error process to find what works." 

Furthermore, the educators trained to assist students with D/H have stated that “ instruction of social skills has been exceedingly important."

As someone with a brother who has special learning needs, I have seen first-hand the tolls of online learning on special-needs students, such as a noticeable struggle to sit still for hours or comprehend complex virtual lessons. My experience in assisting a child with special learning needs allows me to speak on why this solution would be a crucial step in the right direction. Students who require constant physical assistance are not being equipped with the same help as they were before the pandemic. Due to drastic lifestyle changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, special education students are falling behind in remote learning. Although unique, an in-person option for special learning students is the only way to effectively provide the services they require. Additionally, the utilization of smaller classrooms and differing mask accommodations will provide a safe and productive environment for students with IEPs. 

It is time for everyone, especially parents, to take action by starting local and demanding implementation of a solution to this continuously neglected issue. We must advocate for the 6.7 million D/H students in the USA whom the DOE has failed to prioritize for over 45 years since the introduction of the IEP system. We, the students, have taken initiative to create the solution, and we now ask for your assistance to help promote and enact our idea. Through advocacy and determination, we can make a positive impact on millions of students nationwide by providing them with the proper education they deserve.


Ea Schools. (2020, October 22). HISTORY OF THE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from,Act%20(EHA)%20in%201975 


Nelson, A. (2020, September 29). How covid-19 has affected special education students. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from 

O'Leary, W. (2019, April 12). Five current Trending issues in special education. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from 

Perry Stein, V. (2020, August 10). Special education students are not just falling behind in the pandemic - they're losing key skills, parents say. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from 

Research, A. (2020, October 21). The challenges of educating students with disabilities and English Learners During covid-19. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from 

Understood for All. (2015). Anatomy of an IEP. Retrieved from

          Greta, A. (2020). Accessibility Suffers During Pandemic

IStock. (2016). Parents Teaching Students

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