by Peggy Ployhar and Dawn Spence


There are many ways that an IEP can be used in a homeschool environment. Here are two different perspectives from our team on how to use this tool. 


Peggy Ployhar

I never used a formal IEP for any of my children. It wasn’t until after my oldest, who would have been the one I would have created one for, had graduated, that I did the research and realized the potential of documenting all the accommodations and modifications I gave him during his homeschooling career. I see this as God’s grace over my lack of wisdom, but also His providence in leading me towards this truth so I could inform other families of the advantages having this type of documentation provides in advocating for services, testing accommodations and more especially as a student transitions out of your homeschool and into higher education and the workforce. 

Over the years I have talked with parents who had to go back multiple years to create a homeschool IEP in order to get the services and funding their student’s needed, parents who had advocated for service and accommodations for their student because they had done the work and documented progress and accommodations, and all of those in-between.

Yes, looking back I wish I had known then what I know now about how powerful this data is to collect and record, but I am thankful that SPED Homeschool now provides parents the ability to create this document, using our free template and guide, so they can be the best teacher and advocate for their student’s learning needs.


Dawn Spence

As a former special education teacher, IEPs were a part of my everyday classroom life. This legal document drove how and what I taught. Sometimes I got wrapped up in teaching those specific skills and did not focus on there was so much more my students needed to learn. 

In my homeschool life I use IEPs for my daughter, but my approach is different. For instance, I choose a less goals and so I can focus on them, but the learning doesn’t stop there. I also have goals and baselines outside of my IEP. These goals might lead to another life skill goal or be a building block to another bigger goal I have for the future. 

One thing that I loved about my time in the classroom is that I rotated goals and worked on certain goals or learning activities each day. Rotating the goals and the activities means ‌I get to cover more skills while keeping things new for my daughter. This I find extremely helpful as certain goals I think ‌she has mastered and then I revisit them because of some memory issues the skill needs to be revisited. After I set up her goals, I look at how many days a week or days in a month I want to cover those skills. 


We hope these real-life stories helped you see the homeschool IEP from a few different perspectives and will help you in utilizing an IEP while homeschooling.





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Amy Vickrey, MSE, MEd


Accommodations are a frequently used word when children struggle with academics, but it can be challenging to know what the right accommodations are for each individual child. An accommodation is simply changing the way a child accesses the information they need to learn. Information to consider for determining accommodations should include any annual testing, psycho-educational assessments, therapy assessments, parent observations, performance on schoolwork, behaviors that arise when in a specific situation, i.e., sitting for a long period of time, or during a certain academic subject. Accommodations can ‌address needs that are academic, behavioral, cognitive, or related to executive functioning. Finding the right accommodations might be a process, or you might find one that helps on the first try.


Here are some guiding questions and tips to help:

  1. What are your child’s strengths? Strengths are tools that can be used, sometimes creatively, to support weaknesses.
  2. What are your child’s weaknesses? While these need to be worked on, activities and materials should not be so hard that weaknesses make your child frustrated.  If your child is struggling, it’s ok to back up to an easier level before moving forward.
  3. Focus activities on one skill at a time – e.g., if you are working on writing, work on writing. If you are working on spelling, it’s ok to spell out-loud or use letter tiles rather than write words if writing is physically challenging.
  4. Pair a strength with a weakness – For example, if reading is a challenge, pair a physical book with the audiobook or read the book aloud together.
  5. Allow your child to verbally respond to questions if writing is frustrating, unless the goal is specifically to write.
  6. Consider a lesser accommodation first (math chart before calculator, or raised line paper before computer).
  7. Give yourself permission to skip or change activities that do not work for your child. No curriculum is perfect. Make it fit your child instead of trying to make your child fit the curriculum.
  8. If your child struggles with reading, it’s ok to read the questions and answer choices to them in any subject! Including reading! This is an allowable accommodation for most standardized tests in schools.
  9. Ask questions! Ask other parents what has worked for their children in similar situations.  They may have an idea you haven’t tried yet.  
  10. Ask your child! Often, children know what is easy and what is hard for them. Sometimes they have creative solutions adults would not think of, or that they think is fun, so they are motivated to try when they would not otherwise.
  11. Children can learn from videos and educational games, sometimes more than a workbook.
  12. Some children need to be moving to be learning – ‌ make it interactive or allow for movement and creativity in seating arrangements.
  13. Remember, behavior is communication – if your child’s behavior changes during specific activities, it may be their way of saying “this isn’t working for me.”
  14. Use as many senses as possible. Even just chewing gum or snacking can sometimes make a difference in the learning process. The more senses are engaged, the more pathways that are built, and the easier your child will remember the information later.


For more information and tips on accommodations, check out these additional resources:

Writing an IEP: Accommodations and Modifications

What are Accommodations and Modifications?

Creative Ways to Homeschool Special Education

Creating a Unique Homeschool Learning Oasis


Whether you need simple accommodations such as reading questions or more creative solutions, thinking through these 14 simple questions and tips can help guide parents to simple ways to accommodate their child. Allowing for weaknesses, and focusing on strengths in each area, will allow your child to accomplish their goals. Supporting weaknesses and reducing frustrations lead to a love of learning, and a love of learning encourages lifelong learning, helping children to become independent adults who can find the answers to questions they don’t know. 

Amy Vickrey is the Training Manager at SPED Homeschool. To learn more about her, her background, homeschooling journey, and testing/tutoring services, visit her team member page.



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by Amy Vickrey, MSE, MEd


There are many factors to consider when it comes to testing. There are different types of testing, different purposes behind these tests, and how the information can be used. These tests can be useful in different ways to determine your student’s strengths and weaknesses when writing an IEP.


Types of Tests:


Nationally Normed Tests:

Many states require parents to show progress through nationally normed tests, such as IOWA, CAT, or MAP testing. While there are many others, the purpose of these tests is to show how your student is progressing compared to other children the same age or grade. They are also generally based on a set of standards, such as Common Core Standards. It is important to keep in mind that these tests may not show everything your child has learned that school year, especially if your curriculum was not aligned to the same standards as the test they are taking.


Psycho-Educational Assessments

In order to receive a diagnosis for a learning disability, a parent may have a psych-educational assessment completed. This assessment would include Cognitive Testing, along with Achievement Testing. Sometimes Executive Functioning and Behavioral Assessments are also included, depending on the concerns of the parents. 


Cognitive Testing

Common Cognitive tests include the WISC-V, KABC II, or WJ IV – COG. These tests consider how a learner takes in information and processes it. Here are the main areas these tests may consider:


Comprehensive Knowledge (Crystallized Intelligence) – Gc- has to do with an individual’s breadth and depth of knowledge, including verbal communication, general information, and reasoning with previously learned procedures. It may be helpful to think of Gc as the “stuff” or facts stored in long-term memory and the ability to reason with it. Gc develops largely as a function of both formal and informal educational opportunities and experiences and is highly dependent on exposure to mainstream U.S. culture. Classroom skills associated with Motherlized knowledge include use of vocabulary, understanding written and oral language, acquiring knowledge in content areas, and using prior knowledge to understand new concepts. 


Long-Term Memory/Retrieval – Glr – has to do withthe ability to store information in and fluently retrieve new or previously acquired information (concepts, ideas, names, etc.) from long-term memory. Glr, or Rapid Symbolic Naming, involves the rapid naming of digits and letters, and requires students to fluently recall and name letters or digits from long term or permanent memory. Classroom skills associated with Glr include learning and recalling information on tests, retrieving specific words when asked a question, and memorizing and recalling facts. 


Visual Processing – Gv – has to do with the ability to perceive, analyze, store, retrieve, manipulate, transform, and think with visual patterns and stimuli. Classroom skills associated with visual processing include reading maps, graphs, and charts, noting visual detail, using patterns in geometry, geography and art designing, and assembling puzzles. 


Auditory Processing – Ga – has to do with the ability to perceive, analyze, and synthesize patterns among sounds and to discriminate subtle nuances in patterns of sound and speech. Ga or Phonological Awareness, measures a student’s awareness of and access to the sound structure of their oral language, specifically English. Classroom skills associated with auditory processing include phonetic skills, such as the ability to make sound-symbol associations related to reading. Research has also shown that math facts are tied to auditory processing as well.


Fluid Reasoning – Gf – has to do with the ability to reason, form concepts, and problem solve when faced with a relatively novel task or unfamiliar situation. Classroom skills associated with fluid reasoning include perceiving relationships among patterns, drawing inferences, solving abstract problems, thinking conceptually, comprehending implications, generalizing, and reorganizing or transforming information. 


Processing Speed – Gs – has to do with the ability to process visual information quickly and the rate at which a student makes correct decisions quickly and learns new skills. Classroom skills associated with processing speed include the ease and speed at which a student learns new information and fluently performs routine academic tasks, which can affect reading, writing, and math skills.


Short Term Memory (Working Memory– Gsm/Gswm – has to do with the ability to apprehend and hold information in immediate awareness and then use it within a few seconds. Gsm, sometimes called Phonological Memory, refers to coding information phonologically for temporary storage in short-term memory. Gsm is a limited time-capacity system, as most individuals can only retain seven “chunks” of information (plus or minus 2 “chunks”) in the system at one time. Classroom skills associated with short-term memory include reading comprehension, decoding skills, spelling skills, and remembering oral directions. 


Some things to consider when looking at the scores on Cognitive Tests:

  • what do you know your chid’s strengths and weaknesses to be from working with them.
  • what was asked of your child (if your child struggles with writing or letter reversals, some of these tests may be challenging for them and not an accurate assessment of that skill area)
  • if there are any big differences between the individual tests in any of these main areas
  • This kind of assessment is a “snapshot” of how your child performed on one single day.  There are a lot of “factors” that can go into that performance (nervous, tired, etc)
  • Your child can “accidentally” perform badly on a particular test or section, but they do not “accidentally” perform well. Look at the strengths, and take any weaknesses into consideration IF it matches with your own observations about your child’s abilities.


Achievement Testing:

Achievement Testing might be completed by itself by a dyslexia therapist or tutor, or as part of a larger assessment.  Achievement Tests create a picture of about where your child is performing compared to other children your child’s same age or grade (depending on how it is scored). Common Achievement Tests include the WIAT 4, KTEA 3, and WJ IV – ACH.  



Math should include Math Calculation and Math Problem Solving. Math Calculation is generally paper and pencil (so take into consideration any writing challenges or visual challenges your child may have), and Math Problem Solving is often verbal questions (so take into consideration any challenges your child has with verbal directions). Sometimes Math Fact Fluency is also completed, to help determine if your child is able to fluently complete math facts, or if that may be a factor either math calculation or problem solving.



Reading might include areas such as comprehension, fluency, word reading, and phonemic awareness.  The exact tests given will be determined by the needs and concerns regarding your child. Listening comprehension may also be given for younger readers, or to determine the ability of your child to understand stories without having to actually read them.  



Writing and spelling tests are given to determine writing abilities at the letter, word, sentence, and paragraph level. Which tests are given depends on academic concerns and abilities. Writing samples and fine motor skills may also be tested to determine motor abilities that support writing.


Executive Functioning

Executive functioning are the underlying skills to learning. Skills that may be considered include Response Inhibition, Working Memory, Emotional Control, Sustained Attention, Task Intitiation, Planning/Prioritizing, Organization, Time Management, Goal-Directed Persistnece, Flexibility, and Metacognition.



While Executive Functioning and Behavior can overlap, behavior can be assessed when there might be concerns over anxiety, depression, mood, autism, attention and hyperactivity, and more. The concern is whether the behavior is limiting learning, or being caused because the child is already struggling with a learning challenge.  


Reading Scores on a Standardized Test

Most Cognitive and Achievement tests are scored by standardized scores. Generally, this will mean scores above 115 are Above Average or higher, 85-115 are within normal range (90-110 are considered average), and below 85 is considered below average, and a concern. Sometimes a scale of 0-20 is used instead. In this case, 6 and below would be Below Average and a concern, 7-13 would be within normal limits (8-12 would be average), and 14 and above would be considered Above Average or higher.  


A word of caution: These scores are a snapshot of one moment in time,intelligence and abilities are fluid, and for some children can vary‌. Also, some children simply do not test well, or have limitations that affect their scores on certain tests. Trust your judgment and your instincts on your child’s abilities. As a parent, you are the best at determining your child’s abilities and potential.


Amy Vickrey is the Training Manager at SPED Homeschool. To learn more about her, her background, homeschooling journey, and testing/tutoring services, visit her team member page.




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by Sarah Collins, MS/ OTR/L from Homeschool OT and Casey Waugh, OTR/L


In early 2017, my eight-year-old was hit directly in the eye with a Frisbee. He could see the Frisbee leave his friend’s hand yet did not know that it was about to give him a swollen, black-and-blue eye. This occurred around the same time that he asked me, “Mom, how do you read when the words are moving on the page?” As an occupational therapist, a specialist working with people to succeed in what they specifically want and need to do, I recognized that he clearly wasn’t able to be successful in his educational or social goals. It was time to seek help.

As homeschoolers, our children’s educations are individual. We can change the pace of study to fit the needs of our family. We have curriculum options that can be purchased or altered to fit needs, and we can adjust the environment for the best time and place to reach our children. However, building a team of people to work with us and our children can also be beneficial. Sometimes we can build a team, which includes doctors and therapists, with a prescription from our pediatrician, and yet when our child’s struggles are specifically affecting educational performance, a public school IEP can be warranted.


1. What is a public school IEP?

An IEP is an individualized education plan. The term IEP refers to the entire process that is used to develop a special education program that helps a student progress and succeed in learning. IEPs are created when students have a disability or a thinking and learning difference that impacts how they perform socially, behaviorally, or functionally in an academic setting. IEPs are created by a team of educators, the parents, and the student when appropriate. In order to receive an IEP, a student must demonstrate one disability identified in IDEA—the federal law that governs special education—and that disability must be found to have an adverse impact on how the child can progress and succeed in their academic curriculum. Not all students who have disabilities receive IEPs, and not all students who receive IEPs have a diagnosis from a medical doctor. If you suspect your child has a thinking and learning difference, your local school district can complete a full educational evaluation to see if a disability is present. School districts are legally required to locate and identify students with disabilities and offer special education if it is needed. How they go about offering that to homeschool families will vary, depending on the state.

For our son, we started this process by contacting the Director of Special Education in our school district. A simple email requesting assistance was the initial contact. After this, we were scheduled for testing within 60 days. He spent three half-days at the school with the psychologist and occupational therapist for standardized reading, comprehension, and motor testing.


2. Why would a homeschooled child need a public school IEP?

You’ve made changes to the schedule. You’ve allowed for all the movement breaks and all the choices. You’ve changed curriculums. You’ve paired motivating subjects with the challenging ones. And, you still are seeing your child struggle to progress. What do you do? If your child continues to have a hard time with learning, keeping pace, or making progress through a curriculum, an IEP might be helpful. Through a thorough educational evaluation, a psychologist uses different types of tests that can determine whether there is an underlying reason, such as a specific learning disability or a processing concern, for your child’s struggles. Educational evaluations not only determine if a student is eligible for special education, but also provide recommendations for next steps and testing accommodations. Evaluations can involve other professionals, such as occupational therapists, as well. Sometimes related services: occupational, physical, or speech language pathology therapies are identified as part of the special education plan. If a district has evaluated your child and determined that an IEP is appropriate, the evaluators ultimately decide where your child must be to receive those services. If they recommend therapy services, they may have the therapist come to your house. Another option might be to go to the public school building for therapy sessions. If an IEP is developed and related services are identified as a need, the services must legally be made available, but they don’t have to be provided in your home. You have a choice on the location where services are provided.

The diagnosis written on our son’s IEP was “reading delay, unspecified”. On a basic level, this meant that he was having difficulties and was behind the norms of his peers, although no specific reason was identified. The school outlined the need for testing accommodations, offered the option to dual enroll (homeschool while using public school services) for the Wilson Reading System instruction, and recommended OT one time per month. For us, the testing accommodations—a person reading standardized test questions to him—was the most important part. In order to receive accommodations for college entry exams, like the SAT or ACT, proof of the need for accommodations is required. Going through this process allowed us to document his need as early as second grade.


3. If a homeschooled child has a public school IEP, what is the school’s responsibility?

Due to the federal law No Child Left Behind, school districts are required to have procedures in place to evaluate and identify children with disabilities and to develop IEPs for those who need them. This includes children who are homeschooled. However, each state has its own homeschool laws and the district/state may say that the child must attend a public school to receive the special education it lays out in the IEP. Some states consider homeschooling a “private school,” which also determines what type of support plan the district is required to put into place for a child. State requirements for homeschooling a child with a disability can be strict and require the educational plan be submitted and reviewed by a special education evaluator, or they can have no guidelines at all.

In our son’s case, we declined the other opportunities because: The Wilson reading program is an Orton-Gillingham approach to reading that we felt we could provide with All About Spelling and All About Reading. This decision was based on my expertise in my child.

Many other families have chosen the Wilson reading program within the school system and thrived. In addition, now that we had the standardized test results and being an occupational therapist as well as his mother, I was able to use the results to develop a program for his motor skills within my home and to build his own personal outside team, a vision therapist and hockey coach. Again, this was based on my expertise in my child and on his desired occupations.


4. If a homeschooled child has a public school IEP, what is the parents’ responsibility?

Parents are an essential part of the IEP team. While parents of children in public schools are involved in the planning and communication that goes on with developing a solid IEP for their child, homeschooling parents have an even greater role in that you get to see the impact, monitor progress, and make adjustments yourself as you educate your child. Accommodations and modifications, like breaks, technology, order of topics, setting, and environment, can all be adjusted to meet your child’s needs without having to go through the school. Depending on your state, there may be requirements about what information you need to track and record throughout the year and what assessments to complete by the end of the school year. An IEP is reviewed every year at an IEP meeting; however, this isn’t the only time you can ask questions or communicate with the school district. Most IEPs will designate one person from the district to be the case manager or your go-to person when you have questions or when anything needs to be changed. If you don’t know who that person is, ask. Leading up to the IEP meeting, it is helpful to make sure your personal data is organized including any outside information you have from doctors or therapists. It is also helpful to write up a list of your major concerns ahead of any meeting with the school district to ensure all concerns are addressed and not forgotten when the meeting starts rolling.

Since our son’s initial assessment provided a diagnosis and recommendations, Pennsylvania law now requires that we utilize a homeschool evaluator with a special education background. She reviews our goals each year and provides a written assessment that they are addressed throughout our education. Many other states do not require this step; however, for us, it has been helpful each year.


5. What should a homeschool parent expect at an IEP meeting?

IEP meetings are opportunities for the entire team to meet together and share their expertise and knowledge to build an education plan for your child. While there is no official length of time a meeting must be, expect at least an hour or so. While every IEP team must include a special education teacher, a general education teacher, a school district representative, someone who can interpret the evaluation results, and any related service providers (OT, PT, and SLP), not everyone will necessarily attend the IEP meeting. In other words, some professionals may provide input to the plan but not actually come to the meeting. You should receive a notice about when the meeting will take place and who to expect to be there. If there is someone on the team that you want to ensure is present, ask for clarity about attendees and send a letter with your request for anyone else. While some school districts may intend to read through the entire document with you present, ‌expect to get a draft IEP ahead of the meeting. If you don’t receive one, again, ask for one! Everyone else on the team has already had access to that document, and if you are going to be an engaged and informed participant, you need to also have that document ahead of time. The draft is just that, a draft. Anything in that draft can be adjusted or rewritten. Having the draft ahead of the meeting, you can use the time at the table to problem solve and really address your major concern areas, not listen to a document being read to you with little input from you as the parent and main educator in your child’s life. If everything isn’t fully resolved at the end of that first meeting, that’s ok! IEPs are not set in stone for a full year. Things can be revised and edited if everyone on the team agrees, which means no one can change it without your permission either. As a parent, you have the right to make requests, ask questions, and ask for the supports your child needs to be successful. While this is not the case across the board, some school districts expect parents to be observers to the process not active problem solvers in the process. Advocating for your child based on your parental expertise is never a bad thing, even if the school district is surprised by it.

As an occupational therapist (OT) and homeschool parent, I have now experienced this from both sides. I’ve been an OT at many of these meetings, but not until I was a parent did I feel pressure and even judgment. A few things that surprised me were the following:

a) A general education teacher that did not know my son still had to be present for the meeting because the law states a teacher must be there. A homeschool educator does not meet that requirement.

b) Special education services with time elements were still recommended, although the educational setting is different. For example, “_________ will receive 45 minutes of direct, explicit decoding and encoding instruction daily” was a written goal on the IEP despite my stating that our lessons at home are shorter because they are one-on-one instruction.

Though homeschools are already individualized, they are not the same as a legal individualized education plan (IEP). Getting testing can provide valuable information for both developing home education plans and receiving services, testing accommodations, and ideas for home goals.

If you need further assistance in your next steps, register for the IEP course with Casey Waugh or contact Sarah Collins for specific ideas to address your child’s needs within the homeschool environment.


Build your own Homeschool IEP with SPED Homeschool’s resources:

To build your own homeschool IEP without involving your public school, use the SPED Homeschool IEP template and guide.

Need help in pulling this document together? Then check out these other resources.


Author Bios:

Sarah Collins, MSOT, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with a background in both pediatrics and home health, and a homeschooling parent. Sarah was first introduced to homeschooling in 2016 while working as an OT in a client’s home; she was amazed at the learning atmosphere and opportunities within the home. Now as an OT homeschooling her own family, she noticed that parents, though experts on their own children, were invariably asking the same questions and needed resources. As a result, Collins Academy Therapy Services aka HomeschoolOT was established with the dual purpose of educating parents on how to create homeschools specifically designed for students’ needs and training occupational therapists to best serve the homeschool community, together guiding children towards their specific purpose in life. You can find Sarah on line at on Instagram at and in the Facebook group she moderates at

Casey Waugh is an occupational therapist from Pittsburgh, PA currently working in an approved private school setting. Casey has worked in a variety of pediatric settings over her ten-year career and specializes in feeding, sensory processing, and prioritizing parent education. Casey also provides individualized supports for parents focusing on supporting their child with sensory differences, as well as navigating the special education process as a Master IEP Coach. You can find her on social media @ottimewithcasey and at




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by Sarah Collins, from Homeschool OT


Four years ago, my 7-year-old son was playing at a friend’s house when they created a club. The interesting thing about this club was that you had to read the rules. My son, though interested in reading, had amazing comprehension, but could not phonetically sound out the most simplistic sentence. In my gut, I knew something was holding him back, but getting to the root of his specific issue was the most important part.


Was it his difficulty regulating his sensory system, causing him difficulty to sit and attend long enough to grasp the concepts?

Was it his perception of the letters?

Was it his visual scanning?

Was it that our environment with a busy mom and other children homeschooling wasn’t giving him the 1:1 time he needed?

Was it simply that our curriculum was confusing?


As homeschool parents, we are the experts in our children. Similar to this situation, we often feel in our gut when something isn’t quite right. The next step is then finding the most cost effective and time efficient sources.

  1. Find the correct professional committed to working with you as a parent to provide resources and recommendations. This open communication promotes carryover into your homeschool. In our case, I started asking him questions when we would sit to read. How does your body feel? What do you see here? After probing over the next few weeks, he admitted that the words seemed to be moving on the page. So, the professional we sought out was a vision therapist committed to working with him and me to strengthen his eye musculature and address his retained primitive reflexes throughout our homeschool day.
  2. Educate yourself on the root cause- Instead of googling solutions, search to better understand the “why”-

Some of my favorite books are: 

    • The Whole Brained Child by Daniel Siegel
    • Interoception, How I Feel by Cara Kosinski
    • Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom
  1. Begin to address the root cause within your life and environment- You can read more about how we tailored our homeschool to fit his needs here.
    • We naturally target skills by incorporating more time outside. SPED homeschool and I talk about this more on this episode of Empowering Homeschool Conversations.
    • Many websites provide ideas for activities once we understand the root. SPED homeschool has a fantastic list here.
  1. Rest in knowing your child has a specific purpose. Sometimes these difficulties help to build compensatory strategies and life skills so much bigger and better than our vision for our children. Through this trial, my son’s observation skills and an appreciation for nature both grew substantially. He learned to scan his outdoor environment and then bring his attention to his paper. As a result, he draws what he sees with an attention to detail and desire to understand his world.


Sarah Collins, is the owner of Homeschool OT, with 10 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist plus 4 years as a homeschool mom.




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