What Will My Child Be Taught?

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In general, students with disabilities study the same academic content as their peers without disabilities. The academic content for each grade and subject area is set by each state’s Department of Education. However, local school boards and teachers also have some control over what your child learns at school. For example, school boards choose the textbooks your child will use, and teachers use their discretion on what topic areas to emphasize and how to teach the material. The subject matter to be covered in a particular class is called the class’s curriculum. Parents can visit their state’s Department of Education website to review the state’s approved content standards for their child’s grade. Most states refer to these standards as the Common Core Standards.

Pennsylvania and many other states are now using standards-based Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). This means that, for students with IEPs, academic subject goals must be directly tied to state content standards. This helps ensure that students receiving special education services are given access to the general curriculum for their grade level. Once grade level standards are identified, the teacher will plan lessons that support students with specific learning difficulties and will plan how they will participate in them successfully. Many students with disabilities may be able to participate in activities linked to the Common Core Standards, while others may need minimal adaptations to meet the standards. More intensive adaptations might be required for students with significant disabilities. For students with significant complex needs, teachers might use a combination of adapted academic skills from the Core Curriculum and functional life skills.

Your child’s IEP specifies what he or she needs to succeed in the standards-based curriculum. This may include any services, supports, and specialized instruction your child needs to access and make progress in the general curriculum. For example, a student may be taught the same concepts as classroom peers but may use a different textbook, or the student may be provided with reading materials at a lower reading level or the teacher may adjust the amount of information being taught.

Researched-based curriculum should be used with all students. Parents sometimes request that certain math, reading, or behavioral programs be used with their child. In general, parents may not request specifically named programs. However, if your child needs to be taught in a specific way, this should be included in your child’s IEP. Sometimes there is only one program using a particular strategy. If the IEP requires that your child be taught using this strategy, then the desired program, though not named in the IEP, should be used.

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Last Updated: December 1, 2016

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.


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