From Disjointed to Aligned, Targeted, and Intensive Intervention

Many students with disabilities (SWD) and other struggling students receive intervention support from multiple service providers (e.g., general education teacher, special education teacher, speech teacher, Title I teacher, ELL teacher).  While these layers of service may seem to provide a more intensive level of support, multiple layers of support provided by different practitioners may result in a “disjointed” or “piecemeal” (Pearson, 2013, p. 287) experience for students that falls short of the intent of intensive intervention.

Therefore, if a student receives support from multiple providers, consider these questions:

  1. How many support providers interact with the student?
  2. Do all of those providers regularly communicate to align goals, services, and strategies?
  3. Are support plans collaboratively developed and monitored?

If tiers of support are not aligned and coordinated, they will not reach the level of intensity required to close skill gaps and improve outcomes for SWD and other struggling students.  Providers should, therefore work toward integrating instruction across tiers of support in order to provide intensified and coherent intervention plans (Batsche, 2012).

The following IRIS Center Modules provide specific guidelines and processes for intensifying instruction based on student outcome data:

Intensive Intervention (Part 1): Using Data-Based Individualization to Intensify Instruction

Intensive Intervention (Part 2): Collecting and Analyzing Data for Data-Based Individualization

Once teachers analyze data, prioritize concerns, and design individualized support plans, they can employ specific instructional intensification strategies in reading, mathematics, and behavior to close skill gaps by accelerating the rate of skill acquisition.  The National Center on Intensive Intervention provides examples of specific lessons and activities in reading, mathematics, and behavior that include ready-to-use interventions and materials designed to close specific skill gaps.  Teachers can embed these interventions into co-taught lesson plans aligning interventions to grade-level standards and objectives.

The use of data when planning specially designed instruction (SDI) for SWD and interventions for other struggling students is critical to effectively identify the entry point for instruction and develop strategies for closing prioritized skill gaps.  The IRIS Center Modules provide teachers and other service providers with a specific process for using data. The National Center on Intensive Intervention resources provide content-specific tools for use with students once priorities have been established.  Engaging in data-based individualization and employing targeted instructional tools offers the best opportunity for improving student outcomes by facilitating progress within the general education curriculum.


Batsche, G. M. (2012, March 8).  Multi-tiered system of supports:  Integrating academic and behavior instruction and intervention into a single system.  Session presented at Virginia Tiered Systems of Support Cohort Training, Charlottesville, VA.  Retrieved from

Pearson, P. D. (Ed.). (2013).  Handbook of reading research.  New York, NY:  Routledge Publishing.

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