How to Support Students with IEPs During Distance Learning

How can we ensure a free and appropriate education for our students with IEPs while we are learning from home? It's a question that has administrators and teachers around the country scratching their heads.   Diane Myers, Ph.D, senior VP with Specialized Education Services, Inc,. answered some of my questions about best practices for supporting students with IEPs and their families as we move forward. While our interview focused on students with IEPs, I believe her advice is valuable for ALL the learners in our schools.

Read the full interview, here.

1. How can administrators support students with IEPs during distance learning and/or the summer?

"Students with IEPs and their families are facing some of the greatest disruptions from the pandemic, and administrators can help with that by listening to the needs of students and families, potentially reallocating resources (e.g., for students with severe behavioral challenges, an administrator may approve a more robust incentive system to have available reinforcers for those students via a token economy adapted to remote learning), and making sure that teachers and students have the technology and training they need to successfully teach and learn from a distance."

2. How can schools support parents of students in special education during distance learning?

"Schools can also help families find examples of how to apply academic and social behavioral skills to real-life scenarios that might occur; for example, this could look like practicing social distancing (which combines the social skill of being safe with the math skill of estimating measurement) or identifying how a conflict is resolved in a TV show or movie (which helps students apply and generalize problem-solving skills they may have learned). Schools could send model mini-lessons (written in plain language) with suggestions for how to efficiently and effectively integrate learning into daily activities to help with consistency of learning and generalization of acquired skills."

3. What are best practices for meeting students' needs when school does re-open?

"During the first few days of schools being reopened, I think school staff should focus on the expectations in the building and practice them extensively with students. All schools should teach what “Being Safe” looks like (and if they had this expectation already, they’ll need to add some new behaviors).  For example, schools will need to teach what safe distances look like (and how to use any visual prompts, like markers on the floor), any new procedures around hand washing and restroom use, how to wear masks if that’s an expectation at the school, how to cover your coughs and sneezes and what to do afterwards, and what to do if you feel sick or a family member is sick. Some of these expectations may already be part of the behaviors taught in the school, but it will be important to teach all of these skills and provide students time to practice and build fluency as the skills become part of the school culture."

Thank you, Dr. Myers, for sharing your thoughts on supporting students with IEPs.  My biggest takeaway, and something I hope administrators take to heart, is your suggestion to "be patient and have plans." 

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