Beyond Co-Teaching: Considering Supplementary Aids and Services

By Cathy Buyrn, M.S. Ed.

As schools work to provide meaningful access to general education classrooms for students with disabilities, co-teaching has emerged as a viable service delivery option. While it is a powerful way to meet the needs of students in an inclusive setting, co-teaching is not the only inclusive practice available to educators.

Not all students with disabilities need the level of instructional intensity provided by co-teaching (Friend, 2007). It is important for schools to develop a variety of supports and services that will allow them to meet the varying needs of students across grade levels and content areas. Supplementary aids and services can maximize creative use of personnel and other support options, making it possible to balance needs and resources so that teachers are fully supported and students receive appropriate services.

IDEA (2004) defines supplementary aids and services as "aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate" (United States Department of Education). These tools help students work around their disabilities in order to participate in activities with their peers. Supplementary aids and services differ from related services, which are intended to help students benefit from specific special education services (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, n.d.).

Supplementary aids and services may involve numerous combinations of supports, including, but not limited to, assistive technology, environmental accommodations, staff support, alternative presentation of content, behavioral support, and modified assignments. The IEP team should give careful consideration to a "full range" of options, including support and training for staff members who serve students with disabilities (Etscheidt & Bartlett, 1999). The resources detailed in the table below can help schools develop a process for designing appropriate supplementary aids and services.

Supplemental Aids and Services Resources
Information & Training Resources
Supplementary Aids and Services National Dissemination Center for Children with Disability (NICHCY)
Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)
Curriculum Barriers Finder Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)
Documents & Forms
Settlement Agreement Gaskin v. Pennsylvania Fact Sheet Pennsylvania Department of Education
"A Sampling of Supplemental Supports, Aids, & Services" New Mexico Public Education Department
Sample Supplementary Aids & Services IEP Form Grossmont Union High School District

David H. Rose & Anne Meyer

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)
The Inclusion Notebook: Supplementary Aids in Inclusion Education University of Connecticut Center for Excellence in Disabilities

Successful inclusive programs include professional development for both special education and general education teachers. When teachers are trained and have access to appropriate resources and support, students with disabilities are more likely to succeed within the general education classroom. An inclusive program built on a foundation of solid professional development supports effective collaboration between general educators, special educators, and other support service providers.

The Virginia Department of Education continues to provide professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators through a variety of evidence-based initiatives designed to support inclusive schools. These initiatives have been identified as state priority projects. In addition to the state priority projects, various local and regional projects have been initiated by the Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at The College of William & Mary to assist local school divisions. Schools interested in state-wide projects or regional projects can find additional information or make direct requests for assistance at .


Etscheidt, S., & Bartlett, L. (1999, Winter). The IDEA amendments: A four-step approach for determining supplementary aids and services. Exceptional Children, 65(2), 163-174. Retrieved September 3, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Friend, M. (2007). Collaborating for student success (Principals' Workshop Report). Richmond, VA: Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, Virginia Foundation for Educational Leadership, The College of William and Mary, and The Virginia Department of Education.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. (n.d.). Related services. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Building the legacy: IDEA 2004. Retrieved from