Michelle Mason, Ph.D.
How to Get Your Child with an IEP Help!
Since the COVID-19 shutdowns, all children have struggled with learning. It was a sorry experience last Spring because the teachers received no guidance on how they were supposed to implement distance learning. So far, distance learning for general education students seems better than last year. However, services for students with IEPs and 504 Plans seem much the same. Here are a few tips to get better services from the school.
Ask for an IEP Meeting Immediately
Senate Bill (SB) 98 (Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020) was signed by Governor Newsom on June 29, 2020, and filed with the Secretary of State on June 29, 2020. What is important to you as a parent of a child with an IEP is that:
(9) (A) A description of the means by which the individualized education program will be provided under emergency conditions, as described in Section 46392, in which instruction or services, or both, cannot be provided to the pupil either at the school or in person for more than 10 school days. The description shall include all of the following:
(i) Special education and related services.
(ii) Supplementary aids and services.
(iii) Transition services, as defined in Section 56345.1
(iv) Extended school year services pursuant to Section 300.106 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
(B) Subparagraph (A) shall apply, on or after the operative date of this paragraph, to the development of an initial individualized education program or the next regularly scheduled revision of an individualized education program that has not already met the requirements of subparagraph (A)
In other words, any IEP written now must include what specific services will be provided during a school shutdown. This is in contrast to what was happening in many school districts before June 29. Many school districts were writing the IEPs as if school was in session and documenting that services by distance learning would be done to the “fullest extent possible.” Schools cannot continue to write unclear specifics about what services they will provide your child.
Document What You Are Doing with Your Child
To prepare for the IEP Meeting, document everything you are doing with your child to support their learning. If you must sit next to your child during Zoom Meetings, document it. Document how much time your child spends on assignments and how much assistance you are providing. You literally need to have a log including the date, the time, and what you are doing with your child. You are the expert on what and how your child is learning. You are spending much more time instructing your child than the teachers are. By formally documenting this, you can show the school district how much help from them your child needs. It is much more powerful to share a log than going to a meeting and saying that you are spending too much time on schoolwork. You need to have evidence of what you have been doing with your child.
Ask for an Assistive Technology Assessment
If your child is having difficulty learning through distance learning because of the technology, ask for an Assistive Technology Assessment. Your child may not be able to focus on the instruction using a distance learning platform, like Zoom. Perhaps your child cannot keyboard quickly, so cannot participate in class discussions. There are many other ways that your child may have difficulty accessing the curriculum. Even if your child has previously had an Assistive Technology Assessment, you should ask for one now because the demands of distance learning are different from classroom learning.
Send Your Child to School
On August 25, 2020, the California Department of Public Health published rules for opening school campuses to small numbers of students with disabilities and other students who need in-person support and services, such as English learners, students at higher risk of further learning loss or not participating in distance learning, students at risk of abuse or neglect, foster youth and students experiencing homelessness.
The guidelines indicate that there can be no more than 14 students with two adults in any cohort (class or pod). Cohorts should not intermingle at all. Specialists (such as Occupational Therapists or Speech Therapists) can enter the room and are not considered part of the cohort number. You can go here for further information.
Whether you want to pursue having your child go to school to participate in these cohorts is a very personal decision. There are definitely pros educationally in having your child receive live instruction. Many students cannot access learning experiences online. However, every child in school will have a much higher potential to be exposed to COVID-19 if they have school-based instruction.