1. Child’s Right to Learn: COVID-19 has not changed schools’ obligations under federal law to provide a free and appropriate education (FAPE) to all kids, as individuals. Continue to seek accommodations and services that help your child learn, whether in-person or remote. Do not waive your child’s rights or agree to reduced services due to the pandemic. Schools cannot claim hardship (lack of time, teachers, resources, etc.) to deny a student services.
2. IEP and 504s Control: Accommodations and services listed in the IEP or 504 plan remain intact, even though the delivery method may have changed with remote education. IEPs and 504s must clearly state all of your child’s services and accommodations. “Good ideas” are not enforceable unless the IEP or 504 documents them, and only the IEP or 504 team (which includes the parent/guardian) can change the terms.
3. Existing Services and Accommodations: Do not give up services or accommodations just because the school has difficulty delivering them. If a school delays or skips services, the school owes those service minutes to the child. Ask how the school plans to make up services to support goals that couldn’t be implemented in the spring.
4. New Services and Accommodations:
- Does Instruction Fit the Learning Style? Think about the intersection of your student’s disability and learning style and the modality of instruction. For example, a child who has an auditory processing disorder may have particular difficulty with listening and processing information delivered remotely (especially long instructional videos). A child with ADHD may struggle to attend without the structure of the classroom and teacher prompts. A child may also have difficulty with the level of independent executive functioning expected when working at home. These kinds of challenges may require additional supports, accommodations, or modifications.
- New Student Challenges to Address: Explain to the school how the pandemic may have affected your child. For example, a student may be experiencing heightened depression or anxiety, or isolation may have caused the student to regress in language or social skills. These changes may necessitate additional or different services and supports.
- Behavioral Issues: For students who are returning to in-person schooling and who have behavioral difficulties, check that there is a plan for responding if a student becomes dysregulated. If the student has a BIP, review it. Pre-pandemic interventions — like sensory breaks, removing a student from the classroom, or having the student visit the social worker — may not be available. The team should consider whether there are appropriate interventions that might help offset the student’s inability to move around, exercise, etc. Fidgets, weighted vests, use of calming music and other creative techniques should be considered.
- Extra Instruction for COVID Protocols: Consider whether your student may need specific instruction around COVID protocols, e.g., donning mask, proper handwashing, etc.
5. Input from Home is Key: During school meetings, ensure there is space for you to share observations about your child. Typically, the school reports on a student’s level of academic achievement and functional performance by sharing data gathered through testing and observation. However, because the students have not been in school since March, the parents/guardians may have considerably more relevant information and insights. They should have the opportunity to talk about what worked and didn’t work during remote learning in the spring. We recommend writing and submitting a parent input statement that lists all of your concerns and observations.
6. Collect Data on Services and Accommodations: Track the type and amount of IEP services, special education instruction, and accommodations your child receives from the school during remote learning. The CASE website has sample forms available for download. Also, find out how the school will collect data and measure student progress on IEP goals.
7. Collect Data on Home Assistance: Track the type and amount of assistance the child receives from non-school personnel, e.g., from an adult, older sibling, private tutor, private therapist, etc. The CASE website has sample forms available for download. This information will make the school aware of the student’s ability to work independently.
8. Communicate with the School: Ensure the plan incorporates a robust home-to-school communication plan so you are clear about whom to contact if your student begins to struggle academically, social-emotionally, or with technology. Check in with your student often and communicate problems to the school early on, especially if your child begins to disengage.
9. Don’t Wait: If unhappy with the child’s services, accommodations, progress, etc., you should request a school meeting immediately. Feel free to contact CASE if you would like a Parent Partner Volunteer to attend the meeting with you.
10. Remote or In-person? Explain to the parent/caregiver that the decision of whether a child attends school in-person or remotely should be based on the student’s individual needs. It is not true that all special education students must return to in-person instruction.