Teachingachildwithspecialneeds inevitably presents more chal- lenges than merely instructing the child in content and basic
skills. Parents may only need to make a few
modifications to instruction or the textbook for students with mild learning disabilities. On the other hand, some students
have complex, and sometimes severe, educational, emotional, or physical needs that
may seem impossible to meet. How can a
homeschooling parent keep a balanced
perspective and support the student while
medical and/or therapeutic appointments,
and outside responsibilities consume so
much of each day’s instruction?
One key tool that plays an important role
in guiding daily instruction for a student
with special needs is the Student Educational Plan (SEP). The document states the
student’s most significant weaknesses, and
contains annual goals on which the parent can focus appropriate instruction to
meet those weaknesses. Having an annual
plan for the child prevents the parent from
burning out or feeling hopeless because
they cannot “fix” all the child’s difficulties.
So What Is a Student
A Student Educational Plan (SEP) is a doc-
ument that describes a student’s present
weaknesses that limit the child’s progress
in academics, daily living skills, physical
capabilities, and other areas. It then states
a limited number of annual goals that will
address those weaknesses. The SEP states
whether a student is at or below grade
level compared to his age-level peers and
whether he can complete the same quan-
tity of work or perform at the same rate as
his peers. A well-written SEP also describes
what specific helps and/or services the
child will need to attain the annual goals.
Each annual goal is broken into short-term
goals to bring the student closer to meeting
each annual goal.
While an SEP is very similar to a public
Why Create an SEP For Your
school Individualized Education Program
(IEP), there are important distinctions.
Both the SEP and the IEP are educational
plans created to meet the unique needs of
a special needs child. A key difference is
that the IEP places legal obligation on a lo-
cal public school system to provide services
and specialized educational help for an eli-
gible child at no cost to the parent. (This is
based on federal law which guarantees each
child a “Free, Appropriate, Public Educa-
tion.”) The IEP also itemizes the specialized
support and related services that the school
must provide at no cost to the parents. The
SEP carries no such legal power. It can-
not mandate the public school to provide
educational or related therapy services to a
special needs student.
There are many good reasons to create an
individualized Student Educational Plan.
An SEP delineates the student’s most pressing needs and lays out an appropriate and
individualized instructional plan to address
those needs. It only focuses on the student’s
most significant special needs rather than
listing every skill area in which the child
lags behind. In addition, the SEP clearly
lays out how to help the child make progress – whether that is academic, therapeutic, or life skills.
The SEP helps the parent/teacher. The
first step to write an SEP requires the parent
to step back and take an objective inventory
of the child’s weaknesses and strengths.
Having an inventory helps the parent obtain a balanced perspective and enables
them to set priorities on which to focus
most of their efforts.
Another important benefit of the SEP is
that it describes how the student may need the
option to demonstrate what he has learned in
an “unconventional” way (e.g., oral testing
instead of paper/pencil). Such adaptations
are accommodations and/or modifications
that will provide the student with an equal
Special Needs Homeschooling
By Judi Munday
What Is a
Does Your Special
Needs Child Need One?
A well-written goal describes the specific desired
outcome and the level of mastery expected.