Authors: Special Education Law Blog
Many schools are and have not been creative in how they plan or deliver instruction for children with special needs. Under ordinary circumstances that is a problem. Today lacking in creativity is the difference between students with special needs getting something from their education and getting literally nothing. I have seen a wide gamut of responses to this pandemic. I have students in private programs that are getting almost a replica of their day through zoom or google or similar platforms. I think that is the exception and not the norm, and I am not sure why learning cannot occur this way for many students who can engage with video content. I have students who receive 1:1 lessons with their teacher in 20 minute blocks through video conferencing to cover special education content and videoconferencing for group work as well. This means of delivering content has worked well, and in the main the student is continuing to progress. Those are the exceptional cases.
The student who cannot engage with videoconferencing is pretty much relegated to work sheets or in some cases nothing at all. These students need the most creativity but to date I have seen very little being provided to actually approximate a FAPE for them. These will need to be significant advocacy when schools reopen to account for all of the learning that has been ignored during these weeks. It is not enough to claim "they are doing the best they can" when the reality is this can not be the best they can do because it is almost nothing. It is time to research and dig deep to find ways to engage students and provide meaningful education to all students
I have a student who is getting only content for a fraction of his day that represents his special education, no general education at all, for 4 days a week and none of it through engagement with the teacher at all. Much of the content is not consistent with his IEP and is providing almost no meaningful benefit to the student. Worse is that the school district is very defensive about providing more meaningful content. Parents understand that these are challenging times but there are models and guidance on how to do elearning and this is not even close to sufficient. Here are ready made remote learning lessons by teachers for teachers to teach students with special needs and a resource library of materials to access. Resources from the UFT is accessible here. Resources from NWEA are available here.Dallas SD has published emotional support resources here. Similarly, here are emotional supports from the social workers association. More emotional learning links from a consortium of SEL educators, guidance to help adults help kids through this difficult emotional time and resources from Yale.
Schools, parents and teachers are sharing resources in southern California. Here are a set of Youtube videos from a creative teacher Ms. Thai in Montana to support her students with significant disabilities. Dreams Form Goals has good resources and inspiration from one parent to other parents. Khan Academy has free math resources from elementary math concepts through algebra. CEC has published "best practices" for remote learning. Digital promise has published a curated set of apps to support learning. Here are resources from Decoding Dyslexia Maryland and a veteran teacher shares some specific guidance on using multisensory instruction over remote learning. Useful links from Washington University to support learning. For transition students, Udacity is offering one month of free programming to explore courses, so its time to think outside of the box and make the most of our time. Here is a video presentation that provides educators with step by step guidance on how to do elearning from CEC:
Here are 2 more videos to support teachers of students with special needs. Before students can engage teachers need to engage and pick up some concepts and structures to support all students to learn.
Here is another video resource that is readily available if schools are interested in engaging to learn new ways of teaching students with special needs, instead of throwing worksheets and expecting parents to take on majority of the burdens for a students learning.
Parents are prepared and eager to help their children but they need more from school districts to come up with sound content that can be accessed. Start with the CEC video and work from there to make elearning work. We cannot lose more time without learning taking place. At the end of this crisis, I believe there will be some hard conversations about compensatory education, when the dust settles and students have lost lots of educational opportunities.