017-11 IEP Content: Frequency and Duration
How precise must the IEP language be in stating the frequency and duration of each service?
Federal and Virginia special education regulations require that IEPs include the anticipated frequency and duration of those services and modifications in the student’s IEP. 8 VAC 20-81-110 G.7; 34 CFR §300.320 (a)(9). The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) addresses this issue in its analysis of the IDEA’s implementing regulations. OSEP notes that an IEP must include sufficient information about the amount of services that will be provided so that the level of the school division’s commitment of resources is clear. Specifically, OSEP states:
What is required is that the IEP include information about the amount of services that will be provided to the child, so that the level of the agency’s commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP Team members. The amount of time to be committed to each of the various services to be provided must be appropriate to the specific service, and clearly stated in the IEP in a manner that can be understood by all involved in the development and implementation of the IEP. (71 Fed. Reg., 2006, p. 4667)
OSEP issued a 2010 opinion consistent with its previous positions on this matter and reiterated its 2006 statement noted above. (Letter to Matthews, OSEP 55 IDELR 142, 2010). OSEP, however, also cautions that there may be special circumstances where the amount of time for each service, especially related services, may vary in order to meet the needs of an individual student. The example given is an IEP that calls for 16 weekly sessions of counseling, totaling 600 minutes, per semester. OSEP notes that while most IEPs need to state minutes per session in order to meet the regulatory requirement, the referenced provision contains sufficient information so that everyone understands the number of minutes to be provided over the course of the semester, while also providing sufficient flexibility for managing the length of each session depending on the student’s needs. (Id.) Documentation of the provision of the service is critical in this regard.
Practice Tip: IEP teams generally follow the common meanings of “frequency” and “duration”:
Frequency: the amount of services to be delivered per time period.
Duration: the date that services will begin and end (see VDOE sample IEP forms).
Many variables come into play, however, when IEP teams develop specific language to describe these two terms for each child. For example, IEP teams must consider whether the classes will be self-contained and/or collaborative; changes in school schedules; the child’s needs, some of which may be fluctuating; and integrating services in the classroom or across other instructional environments. In addition, daily special education services provided in the classroom and related services provided on a periodic basis may lend themselves to differing frequency descriptions. For this reason, we refer you to the following VDOE documents, which address varying situations, to provide guidance. In addition, school personnel may wish to review individual situations with their VDOE special education technical assistance specialist.