[ABCs of SPED] A is for Access

abcs of sped Feb 28, 2018

Hooray! It's the first installment of our new weekly series, The ABCs of SPED. And today, we're talking Access.

Let's talk about the myriad ways you may have heard this phrased used in your special education journey:

  • A student's access to assistive technology may make or break his ability to communicate.
  • You have a right to access your child's educational records (see your procedural safeguards!).
  • "The education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom." IDEA 2004
  • Accommodations and modifications can be used to allow children with disabilities to access grade-level content at a developmentally-appropriate level. 
  • Inclusion provides access to social opportunities with typically-developing peers.
  • Universal Design for Learning is a researched-based method that increases accessibility for children with and without disabilities.

And there are infinitely more examples! Access, both as a noun and as a verb, has become a buzzword in special education circles.

But what does access really mean?

EduGlossary says it best: "In education, the term access typically refers to the ways in which educational institutions and policies ensure—or at least strive to ensure—that students have equal and equitable opportunities to take full advantage of their education."

Put more simply (via Dictionary.com), access is "the state or quality of being approachable."

So what does this mean for you, and for your child?

First, all conversations around the education of your child should focus on the concept of access. 

Access should be the lens through which all educational decisions are made. When weighing a certain accommodation, or addition, removal, or change of services, we must always ask:

"Does this provide my child with greater access to the content, experiences, and opportunities that s/he would have if s/he did not have a disability?"


"Does this provide my child with greater access to the skills or experiences s/he will need in order to reach his/her full potential?"

Access is about getting your child what they need to be successful.

Here's a great image that illustrates this point:

Access asks us consider not only what services or supports the school needs to provide, but also what barriers the school needs to remove, in order for your child to have equitable opportunities for participation.

So here's your homework!

In your next meeting, ask your child's IEP team to define how a certain goal, accommodation, or support works to increase your child's access. If they can't articulate clearly how it provides greater opportunities for your child, ask for something different.

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