Most of our districts have started to share their plans for reopening this fall and many parents of students who receive Special Education Services are starting to worry. You may be worrying about things like:
- My child can’t/won’t wear a mask!
- What if my child isn’t allowed to visit the General Education classroom due to schools trying limit transitions/exposure?
- My child has regressed during e-learning and summer break!
These are valid concerns and you need to be asking questions and taking action NOW! The Indiana Department of Education’s reopening guidance is purposefully vague to allow each district to best meet the needs of their community. Unfortunately, that means that there will be many different plans set in place. Reach out to your Director of Special Education* and ask what your district’s plan is to support your student!
Regarding the concerns mentioned above:
- If your child is unable to wear a mask due to his/her disability, then reasonable accommodations must be made. Some schools may require a note from your child’s physician to document that he/she can’t wear a mask due to their disability. Know your school’s policy so that you have time to act accordingly.
- COVID-19 is NOT an excuse to fail to implement a child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan). If your child is supposed to spend X amount of time per day in a General Education setting, they should still be doing that. Ask your school to address this with all General Education teachers, Special Education teachers, and Instructional Assistants in your district so that no one tries to use COVID-19 as a way to limit “inclusion time”.
- Schools are accountable for providing services during e-learning. If you feel that your child did not receive the services written into their IEP during e-learning in March through May, reach out to your school now to schedule an IEP to discuss. If services were not provided or were not appropriately individualized to your child, then your student is entitled to compensatory services. For example, if your student has 1 hour per week of Occupational Therapy (OT) services in their IEP but they received no OT during e-learning, you should discuss making up the lost hours once they return to school. Parents must advocate and request compensatory hours if needed. It is unlikely that your school will volunteer these services if you do not ask.
Again, don’t wait! Call your Director of Special Education* now! Not sure who your Director is? Here is the directory for the entire state: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hRtp2zsG3WtdCf2ma69awNDkxTc65jLn/view. For additional help, contact advocacy organizations like IN*SOURCE, Family Voices Indiana, About Special Kids, the Joseph Maley Foundation, or the Arc of Indiana to get more information and advice on how to proceed.
*Just a side note: Principals, Vice Principals, and teachers are wonderful. But when you are discussing issues related to Special Education law (Article 7) and the rights of your student, your Director of Special Education will be the person most knowledgeable about the law.