Maryland Online IEP  

a female teacher watches as a group of young students from various ethnic backgrounds practice writing

Specially Designed Instruction

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." —William Butler Yeats

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Big Ideas

Specially designed instruction (SDI) is defined by IDEA as “adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability and to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children.” 34 CFR §300.39(b)(3). SDI is the unique combination of instruction, intervention, related services, supplementary aids, accommodations, and other adaptations and support that the IEP team selects to accelerate the student’s growth. Effective SDI is collaboratively developed, implemented, and evaluated by a team that includes teachers, other service providers, and the student and family. The instructional practices used, the instructional setting, and the intensity of intervention are customized to meet the student’s individual needs.


Specially designed instruction accelerates student progress to approach or achieve grade-level content standards. The instruction and supports are developed and implemented to meet each student’s instructional needs and address the impact of the disability on access to and progress in the curriculum. The IEP document serves as a guide to teachers and other service providers to deliver the instruction and supports that help to narrow the gap between the student's current performance and grade-level academic content standards and functional expectations. Effective SDI helps ensure that students with disabilities have full access to the curriculum and school environment, achieve meaningful outcomes, and leave school ready for college, career, and life in the community.

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1. Marcella E. Franczkowski, Assistant State Superintendent, Moving Maryland Forward: Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education / Early Intervention Services (DSE/EIS) Strategic Plan 2016

2. Maryland State Department of Education, Technical Assistance Bulletin, Division of Special Education / Early Intervention Services – Improving Outcomes for Students With Disabilities – Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessments