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Does the District Need to Make-Up Therapy Sessions?

by Sharon Lutz

Since we signed my daughter’s IEP, she has missed 6 sessions of weekly OT. The therapist was absent for two of the sessions.  She missed four sessions on ‘Delayed Start Days.’ Our district starts school 2 hours late on one day each month. Does the district need to make up these days?

The school needs to make up any missed time on items required in your daughter’s IEP and/or provide a qualified substitute.

A regular ed student gets a substitute when the regular teacher is out for some reason. This absence could be for just a day or two or for an extended period of time. Why would the special ed student any different?  They deserve the same requirement as the regular ed student.

Specific therapy services (like OT, PT, or speech-language) often present a problem.  It is sometimes difficult to find a qualified substitute or replacement staff.

Caution! Interrupting or failing to make-up missed services could constitute a denial of FAPE.

Compensatory Time for Missed Services

I understand your situation. Our son, who is dyslexic and on an IEP, had (3) 40-minute sessions per week for speech therapy. When the school speech therapist was out for months due to health reasons, the school tried to hire another speech therapist. None were available. After three long months, the school hired an excellent speech therapist. My son started progressing again.

The school owed my son (and all other students who required speech therapy) compensatory time.

They agreed to compensate us for the time, even if it meant using the summer months.

Compensatory Services Must Meet Your Child’s Needs

In our case, when the original speech therapist returned to school, she attempted to make up missed time by adding minutes to the end of each weekly session. This did not meet my son’s needs.

1.    There was no value to the compensation of time. My son’s attention span was only so long.  Extra minutes in each session were not doing any good. My son needed the time made up in “ extra sessions” not in “minutes added to sessions.”

2.    Added minutes of make-up time did not equal actual time lost.

Parents should also be concerned about therapy time being used for testing. During the course of a school year, therapists test students to provide information for the IEP meeting. I consulted with our state Legal Services. This practice is not acceptable unless a parent agrees to use therapy time for testing.

Tip: While progress monitoring is important, have a discussion with your therapist about when and how often your child is tested to ensure she is not losing valuable time for therapy time as “testing time.”

I also consulted with an independent professional speech therapist and paid for her time to attend our IEP meeting. She explained to the IEP team why “testing time” and “adding extra minutes” were not compensatory time.

The school agreed to complete any required sessions in the summer as part of Extended School Year (ESY). We thought this was a good solution.

Services Designated in the IEP

In Ohio, my son’s school also had a delayed start. None of the regular education students lost any of their normal school class time. Your daughter should not lose her time either.

The school needs to follow the IEP. The school should follow the designated time stated in the IEP or make it up.

Check to see if anyone else is losing class time due to “delayed start” scheduling. This sounds more like a civil rights issue of discrimination towards special ed students versus a regular ed student.  Point that out to your school administrators and see what happens.

My guess is that they will want to work with you rather than to take a chance on a civil rights issue.

You may be interested in reading these articles.

A question from Virginia: Is It Legal to Send Kids with Disabilities Home Early?

OCR and Discrimination: Dismissal Times for Special Ed Students


Sharon Lutz (Sharon L.) of Ohio is a parent of 3 sons with learning disabilities (ADHD and Dyslexia). Sharon is an advocate for her sons and has 25 years of experience working with school districts and the IEP process.  She is a member of the Learning Disability Association.

Sharon is happy to share her information with parents so that others can benefit from her experiences in advocating for her children.

She started a parent advocate group that was successful in sharing ideas and strategies as well and providing information to parents and the community.

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18 Comments on "Does the District Need to Make-Up Therapy Sessions?"


Sharon: My daughter attends Catholic school in Illinois. She needs speech help, but may not be getting it because the school district is telling me they only have a certain amount of funds for private school kids. I live and pay taxes in the public school district where she would get services. How can they not give her help when I pay taxes in the district?

Diana J

We finally have a signed off IEP after a two month battle. One of the services on the IEP is 30 minutes of speech therapy per week . My daughter still has not received this service to date. The special ed person went on vacation and no one replaced her. The school only has one special ed staff member. Last year I filed a OCR complaint for lack of services and we had a hearing and wrote a agreement. I thought the school would not make the same mistake , but here we are again. I had a meeting with both the school and district stating my concerns and informing them I will not hesitate to file another complaint. How do I get both parties to start taking my daughter’s services seriously? Do I need to file another complaint and seek out lawyer? And where do I find a lawyer in Colorado Springs ?
Thank you for any help.

Sharon L.

Jenn, It is difficult for me to comment due to not knowing exactly how the speech service is writtin. My son had speech & it was written very specifically as to how many minutes per day & how many days per week. THis way if the school was to make a change they would have to discuss it in an IEP meeting otherwise they would not be doing what the IEP states & it is a legal document. The school cannot legally say they are changign services due to administrative issues. You will probably need to get an IEP meeting together to discuss this as it will affect your son’s progress.


My son’s twice a week individual speech therapy was reduced to once a week for 15 minutes due to staffing issues without notification to the parents. Due to the range of minutes of therapy on his IEP they were within legal parameters. My first question is, does there have to be a low and high end of therapy minutes on an IEP? Also, going forward can I ammend the IEP to add that therapy will not be reduced due to administrative issues?

Sharon L.

Heather,I was told by an attorney that when the speech teacher is not available the time must be made up. AFter all the regular ed students get substitutes when a teacher is out, don’t they? I was also told that testing time is not therapy time.