Teachers creating plans for these children must take two things into consideration:
  • the child’s specific needs, and
  • the accommodations outlined in the child’s IEP
Sometimes these two areas are in direct conflict with state and federal guidelines for that child’s grade level, adding an additional layer of difficulty and challenge, but teachers need not see this as a nuisance; instead, they should consider it an opportunity to expand their own knowledge and skills.

Student needs vary by disability, and even then, children with the same diagnosis can have drastically different needs. A well-written IEP will address these needs, but it is only a starting point. A child might have an accommodation of, "Modify Worksheets", without any direction as to what those modifications should look like. One good starting point is to determine the child’s current level of functioning. It is much easier to find lessons online for a topic at another grade level than it is to find a lesson plan specifically designed for children with special needs – which tend to overlook the fact that most of the time, not all children have the same needs. It is irresponsible on the part of the teacher to assume that one lesson will fit all students with challenges in his or her classroom, and many of those online sources make that assumption.

Instead, a teacher should create a plan for the general classroom, and then refer to the accommodations listed for each child with an individual education plan (IEP). Often, the current assignment can be modified, or a similar lesson written in the "differentiated instruction" style can be found online. In fact, it is a good habit for teachers to use a differentiated instruction lesson plan template to address the needs not only of students who are identified as needing Special Education, but also for those children who struggle but do not qualify or students who out-perform their peers. A differentiated instruction model will offer choices to either the students or teacher in a variety of levels and learning styles, so that the needs of all students in the classroom are met.

The remaining challenge is creating plans for children whose needs conflict with state standards. How does a teacher address multiplication with a student who is so severely Learning Disabled in mathematics that he or she cannot add? In instances like this, the special education teacher in your building can be a teacher’s best friend. He or she should have materials on hand for regular education teachers to address the more severe needs that might present themselves in a classroom. Together, the regular education teacher and the special education teacher form a team to plan lessons together and to ensure that all children in the classroom are successful.