Updated: Apr 5, 2021
The pandemic has had a negative impact on schools and education services. This has had the greatest negative impact on special education students. Students in special education in many school districts reveal what is called “regression in skills” in both academic and social/interpersonal areas. What parents often see is that your child has more behavioral and emotional complaints and really have not benefited from the “online” educational services. It has been very hard for students to concentrate on classes and teaching on the computer when they need extra support, repetition of instructions, extra time, and support with reading and mathematics. In addition, those who need counseling have not received support in behavior management or expressing emotions or social skills development for over a year. As a consequence, many parents see children not using skills and behaviors that they have used in the past. Indeed many special education kids are spending time on the internet, watching tv or isolating in their bedrooms.
One partial solution for this situation is what’s called “extended school year” on the IEP. It basically means summer school or summer instruction for your child to make up for time missed and skills lost while school was in a “virtual” state. Usually, schools meet in the spring and almost automatically state that students do not qualify for this service because 1) they have not had a long period without instruction or 2) the lack of “significant” loss of critical life skills and/or academic ability. Yet the pandemic has caused a situation where this condition exists for almost all special education skills. This should particularly impact students with intellectual disability, Autism, Other health impaired (ADHD) and Emotional disability.
It is critical as schools plan to reopen in the Spring for parents with or without advocates request the ESY services for your child. Indeed, also request “compensatory services” which are the special education services and contact hours that your child would have received during the school year to be made up during the summer.
1. Tell them a teacher visiting your home for a couple of hours a week is not enough to make up for the class time and the group social interactions that your child needs to progress in their IEP program.
2. Tell them you do not “waive” these services (as many school systems will seek this option in order to avoid the requirement to hold regular 7 hour a day classes).
3. Remind them that your child’s program is based on federal law and therefore it has greater control of your child’s program than the “policies” of a local system.
4. Do not sign because a nice teacher or principal suggests this is how our district plans to provide the service.
5. Have an advocate or lawyer accompany you to any IEP meeting (the advocate can attend through telephone or video conferencing if they cannot meet at the school.
I hope this note will assist you as we move from the virtual to regular face to face school services this spring. I will always suggest that you have an advocate or lawyer attend sessions with you. Special education law and services are very complicated and it can be very stressful sitting in a room with a group of educators who have practiced what they will say before a meeting. An advocate can help even the most educated parents in this meeting.
[If you need assistance obtaining an advocate or have a question about this information please place a question on this web site. I will make sure you receive an answer within 2 days of your post. This is a members group post however if you desire an individual response please send contact information with your post].
[This information is provided for informational purposes. Each state has slightly different rules and therefore presented information is based on general special education and federal laws. This should not be considered as a provision of specific legal advice.]