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[Educator Network] Answering Educator Questions Around Supporting Students with Special Needs During School Closures

[Educator Network] Answering Educator Questions Around Supporting Students with Special Needs During School Closures

With the changes and challenges in education brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures, educators are struggling to support the goals and objectives of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students while orchestrating the myriad resources and supports for said students. Last month, we hosted a panel webinar that addressed some of the concerns that educators have while supporting students with special needs. Lindsey Foulkes and Deanna Wright from Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy offered their suggestions in response to a few webinar attendee questions:

 

What do educators do to ensure student privacy requirements under HIPAA and FERPA are maintained while teaching and learning from home? How can educators of students with special needs continue to document their work and students’ progress?

Educators can use VPN, FTP, and their district’s HIPPA/FERPA aligned programs and software to ensure all documentation privacy is maintained. For live pieces, they can make sure they are in a quiet room with no other individuals present. Documentation of work and progress for educational plans can occur in exactly the same way it does in a classroom—observing during live lessons, evaluating submitted work, charting using reports generated via various programs.

How can educators ensue IEP and 504 plan processes and requirements continue to be followed while learning virtually? How can initial evaluation meetings be conducted and how can existing plans be revised?

Educators can always refer to their school, local, district, state, and federal guidelines regarding processes, requirements, and timelines. Electronic calendars with reminder alerts set are always a great way to ensure those important deadlines are not missed. Initial evaluation meetings can be conducted in the same manner as one would with a parent participating by phone; documenting attendance with annotations by the designee for distance participation or sending out signature sheets via regular USPS for signing and return. Existing plans can be revised and attended to in the same manner; phone or live video chat to simulate previously standard meetings.

How can co-teachers continue to partner effectively while teaching their students with special needs virtually?

Having a teacher team is so beneficial and there are multiple ways that teacher teams can work together. Here is one suggestion:

Divide the class into two groups. Each teacher takes a small group for reteaching or enrichment into a breakout room. Switch groups each week or create new groups based on the students’ needs. This will help involve some of those students who have not been participating. With lower numbers, each teacher is able to provide one-on-one support to struggling students. Continue to plan lessons together; brainstorming and collaborating with others usually results in out-of-the-box ideas. Make sure that you are cultivating the relationship with the team teacher—just like with students, relationships are key.

How can classroom teachers continue to work closely with support staff, including counselors, physical and occupational therapists, and reading interventionists, to make sure students with special needs receive the holistic support they need?

You can utilize your support staff in similar ways that you did in the classroom. If they provided one on one behavior support, have them provide virtual support with the parents/caregivers. They can assist in finding new routines or activities at home. They can continue to develop the relationship with the students and family. Use your staff to help find interactive activities for the students. I have found that some support staff find the most creative ways to instruct the students that they get to know so well!

These are just a few tips and tricks that have worked for our educators. Teachers are amazingly resourceful, and teachers of children with special needs are the most resourceful of them all. Trust in your creativity!

winnie.oleary's picture

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently a Curriculum Manager for Edmentum. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she finds something new and exciting every day.