Does the District Need to Make-Up Therapy Sessions?

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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.

Sharon enjoys sharing information with other parents so they can benefit from her experiences and is the author of “If I Can Do It, Anyone Can: A Resource Book for Parents of Learning Disabled Children” and a member of the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

Sharon started a parent advocate group. Members shared ideas and strategies and provided information to parents and the community. For more information, please contact Sharon at

Visit at


  1. Should the school district notify parents if there are missed therapy sessions (speech/OT)? In my case, so far for the 2019-2020 school year, my child is missing 10 speech sessions and 6 OT sessions. The days missed were primarily due to the therapist was absent & a couple were on 1/2 days. Also, the director informed me that missed sessions DO NOT have to be made up. Is this true for NJ? Who should I contact for a log of all therapy sessions. I believe there may be more sessions missed than I have accounted for.

    • The federal dept of Ed has said that if the therapist is out, sessions should be made up. I suggest requesting the session notes in writing from the therapist and director.

  2. Hi, I have a question for you guys. I have a parent who was offered services, but did not like them because of the therapy model, teletherapy. Her kiddo is 3-4 years old with Aut primary. SHe was offered days and times but would not bring her child. Now that the iep meeting has been help, she wants compensatory time because she understands the model better. I’ve been told since she didn’t make her child available, then comp services are not required. Just curious what you guys think about this issue? THanks!

  3. Unfortunately there are factors that these commenters are not aware of. I am an SLP in a public school district. Last weekend was a 3 day weekend and I wrote documents 6am to 9pm all weekend. Didn’t get to see my friends and family hardly at all. The school district nor the SLP has control over the fact that there is a shortage of SLPs. SLPs can get weary of working long hours and having people get angry at us for things we can’t control. I’ve talked to professionals and this is why they get burnt out and quit, then you have a worse problem because there are even fewer SLPs in the schools to provide services. Ask yourself if YOU would give your life away for your job.

    • There is one more issue here. Just as women are standing up against abuse, we need to stand up against abuse of our career role and our certification. If a Dr. sees more patients, there is compensation under most circumstances. Some workers get paid overtime. We need to be pro-active and stand strong. A caseload max should be honored and compensation offered for staff with more students than the state guideline.

    • I agree with Beth. I’m an SLP too. Please understand that we have no magical powers and no one will die from missing a few sessions. Ask yourself do you work on your child’s goals at home when provided with homework? 99% of my students DO NOT. Do not blame a few missed sessions on lack of progress if you de not follow through. Skills do not generalize by going to speech therapy. Opportunities need to be organic and worked on at home. I am literally available only 3-4 days of week for therapy because of meetings and IEPs that last far too long with unreasonable demands for a child who distorts a single sound but is completely intelligible and for kids with extreme behavioral issues whose parents feel their child cannot communicate when in reality they are emotionally impaired.

      • Part 2: I have to make most of my materials and there is a lot of planning that goes into each session. Do you want a productive session for your child? Imagine making plans and materials for 71 students including those who are cognitively impaired. It’s impossible to meet the demands! Also it is not always best practices for individual therapy. Goals generalize better in small groups for most. Speech therapy is only truly skilled in increments. What I mean is we teach a specific skill but once a child can do it they can practice with anyone until mastery and then the SLP can monitor and introduce the next skill. Again there is no magic here. Is it worth it for your child to miss out precious class time when you could be the one providing practice? Thru it all I still luv it

    • What? As an SLP, I and I can assume others are very “aware” of our N’tl shortage area-Many of us selected the Field for this reason. It helps to know your audience.

  4. In my son’s IEP it says” 52 sessions of Speech therapy per IEP year” and he gets Speech over ESY. Does this mean he gets one session a week (or 6 day cycle)?

    • I would bet that he usually gets 2x a week. Therapists I know that write 52/year usually mean that as a minimum and don’t factor in ESY or week long breaks etc. They usually provide therapy 2x/week. I don’t know your therapist, but writing 52/year allows for weeks where there no school on particular days (e.g., no school on a monday or a friday), or days when they might be sick/in a meeting, so instead of 2x/week they write 52x/year. I would ask your therapist specifically how they provide service hours, but I would bet that is the case.

  5. It would be interesting to note who’s responsibility it is to make up the missed sessions. Does it legally fall on the therapist providing the service to make up the minutes, or the district of service? Since districts cannot find the substitutes for SLPs , doesn’t the legal responsibility fall on the district of service and not the SLP?

    • Yes the District has the responsibility which they routinely shift to the nearest provider-The school SLP.

    • Please understand that related service providers, like SLPs and OTs, are often incredibly overworked, with caseloads as high as 100 students. I am a school-based OT, and I am unable to make up time. Not because I don’t want to, but because there is simply not enough time in the school day. My schedule is often doubly booked from morning to night every day. Please don’t attack the service providers. We are overworked and burnt out. Please bring this up to the district administration or to your local governmental agency. It’s a policy issue, not a therapist issue.

  6. My sons school says they don’t have to make up any therapy when school is closed for weather or on holiday, is this true,and what if my son is absent ,do they have to make up this time too?

    • Different School Districts have different policies. In my Dist., under the circumstances described, the answer is no. This MI Dist. asks that we make up meeting time or our own absence which is basically like not having a sick day and if you are out 3 days-Super swamped and I would suggest most kids could miss a session without tumultuous effect. A therapist bogged down with make-up therapy and running around is not going to be as effective in service provision.

  7. This is fine for parents but requiring an SLP RETUNING FROM A MEDICAL to run around interrupting academic schedules to pull students is unfair to the employee and other students on the caseload. Added to the additional sessions is additional medicaid billing, rescheduling and sometimes larger group sizes or incompatible student groups.

    • Brenda: Please read the original question – it was not about requiring an SLP returning from medical leave to “run around interrupting academic schedules” which you view is “unfair to the employee.” The question is whether a school needs to make up missed therapy sessions. The answer is “yes.” Failing to make up missed therapy sessions may result in the denial of FAPE by the school district. School districts have options, including retaining services of independent therapists to supplement the efforts of their staff.

      • Denial of FAPE is decided on an individual basis. If a child scheduled to be dismissed from therapy due to progress misses a session, little argument exists that the child has lost part of his free education.

      • I never heard of a single school District employing day to day Subs for Speech Pathologists and I have worked in 3 large Districts and one suburb. Some districts are asking each SLP to make up their own absences and this is the current reality.

      • In this day and time, most School Districts are not willing to spend extra money employing substitute clinicians. The reality is that the burden for make-up therapy will be placed on the school Speech Pathologist.

    • Thank you, Brenda, for exposing the reality of being a school-based SLP. The workload and stress levels are insane.

      And we are *never* allowed to say we can’t do something because we don’t have time even if it’s true. “No, sorry Mrs. Smith. Regardless what your paid advocate says, I can’t see little Johnny in private for an hour 5 times per week because I have 75 other little Johnnies who also need my help. Oh and also, Mrs Smith, those lessons plans, progress reports and IEPs don’t write themselves. And you know all those cool little crafts we do and the PECS book your child uses to communicate? Someone actually has to make them. Guess who that someone is? That’s right, it’s *me*, Mrs. Smith! I know you don’t care one whit about me, Mrs. Smith, but I’m an actual living breathing human being with people who love and need me.”

      Nonsense like this is why I finally quit after 20 years in the public schools and opened a private practice. My caseload is a quarter what it was. Most parents are grateful for my services. And those that aren’t satisfied are free to leave any time. It’s heaven!

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Hi,
    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?

  12. 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.

  13. Hi Sharon.

    My son missed his speech lesson last week because the speech teacher was pulled to help kids with state mandated standardized testing (my son was not tested that day). The school says they don’t need to make it up. Is this true? Thank you!

  14. Sherrie:

    “Question C-2: Are there any particular kinds of services or specified amounts of services that must be provided to parentally placed private school children with disabilities under Part B of the Act?”

    Answer: No. Children with disabilities enrolled in private schools by their parents have no individual entitlement to receive some or all of the special education and related services they would receive if enrolled in a public school other than child find, including evaluations. Under the Act, LEAs have the obligation to provide the group of parentally placed private school children with disabilities with equitable participation in the services funded with federal IDEA funds.


  15. Deb,

    Depending on the age of your child, I would focus on the remediation. It is great that he is getting the 1-1 remediation. Is he participating in his class specials such as art, gym, music, etc.? My child was pulled out of some of the specials for remediation. For some kids, it is not a good model as the specials give them the time to socialize and show their strengths in other areas. As my child became older, the pull outs became problematic as he wanted to be more included in such activities. We moved out of town, and the new school district’s model incorporates best practices which allow for the child to be included and not pulled from such activities. Children need to have a balance of activities in school as school can become too intense for the dyslexic child.

    • I have never scheduled children during their special classes in my 30yr career. Yeah, I did a little testing on occasion when time was tight and pulled a few students, usually at the end of the special class.

  16. My nine year old daughter became profoundly deaf in both ears at the age of four, and recieved a cochlear implant on her right ear. Because she developed her speech and language prior to her hearing loss, she had an advantage than most hearing impaired children working with a hearing device. The implant was successful, with continued speech therapy following her surgery.

    She attends a catholic private school, placed by her parents. After three years of receiving special ed services from our local school district, the district decided to cease all services she was receiving. This decision was not made by her IEP team nor the experts involved in her case. Speech services were recommended to continue. A decision was made from the special ed director alone. Can this happen? What happens to the services she missed?

  17. My son is dyslexic and gets 1:1 reading instruction 5x per week. It has come to my attention that at times, he does not get to partake in his class activities (school play, party, etc). We value his reading instruction yet want him to participate – just like his peers. Any ideas, comments or thoughts on this? I will be meeting with the school next week but would like to get some input. Thank you.

  18. Stephanie – The same thing happened to my son. The speech teacher was pregnant & had to remain in bed. The school was trying to get a new teacher but took over 6 months. By law all of that time must be made up. Be careful not to let them make it up by adding a few minutes every day. The time needs to be made up as it was intended (ie 30 minutes per day/ etc) because that is the best way your child learns. The school ended up making it up over the summer. Remember testing time is NOT therapy time. An attorney told me that. IEP meetings for others during your child’s time must be made up no exceptions. As far a year going by if you can prove the child did not meet the goals try to get the services made up. The longer you wait the harder it will be to get.

    • What if child’s speech session time occurs during his own IEP meeting? I think this frantic concern about a missed session is really out of touch with reality. Reality dictates that some things will be missed and a school week cannot be stretched to make more time.

  19. Patrice – When my son received a suspension he could not make up anything. I think this is up to the discretion of the school. If the suspension lasts longer than 10 days & your child is on an IEP than services can be made up. I am not sure if it is a law or not but I was told that for up to 10 day suspension the school can do what they want.

  20. My son missed about 6 weeks of speech therapy when his teacher quit and the school was trying to replace her. The school kept blowing me off, saying they were providing him with speech in his inclusive setting, which I don’t think happened. The missed speech therapy was over a year ago, and it still bugs me today. We are in the same school district. Can I fight for that lost time, although it happened more than a year ago? Since that time, he has missed sessions because the speech teacher had to attend IEP meetings. He is in preschool. Do the same rules apply?

  21. My son was on a three day suspension. He requires services to learn coping skills and a behavioral plan. Can he make up these services?

  22. PaisleyPark, yes they do. If you do not want your daughter to make up the sessions, but you are concerned that she didn’t get them, I don’t know what an alternative would be. The school should not extend her therapy time by minutes but should make up full sessions in the regular alloted amount of time. They can agree to provide the time over the summer as well.
    Our son ended up in that situation and it worked out ok. He needed the therapy time and was not “maxed out” as you say. They made up sessions instead of adding a few minutes to the end of a session – that was a better solution.

  23. We had a similar experience when our school therapist transferred away and there was a vacancy for several weeks. When the new therapist arrived it took her several weeks to ramp up and by the time we got back on track we missed 30 sessions. The district tried to cram them in before the end of the school year. We had to make the remainder up the next school year. They wanted us to sign off on not completing the makeup sessions but we really needed the time. Hold firm on the sessions.

  24. My child’s sped teacher is being pulled to administer standardized testing, and my child is missing a great deal of service delivery time. I estimate approximately 18 hours over a 3 week period. There has been no mention of making up the time, and actually I don’t feel that make-up is appropriate since she is already almost maxed out as it is. What can I do?

  25. I wanted to give you an update. We found out that the district is not providing weekly (4X a month) OT. They are providing three 30 min sessions (3X a month), so the delayed start day was already anticipated by the district. They agreed to make up the two sessions the OT missed due to absence.
    Now we are working on trying to get them to give compensatory services for OT that was not provided under the old IEP. We found out in February that our daughter got no therapy for 3 months at the start of this school year. We asked for compensatory services, and we got Prior Written Noice that stated she received therapy because they were doing testing. They never discussed that the testing would be in lieu of OT therapy.
    I will check with OLRS about this. Thanks for your advice!

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