This is quite the mess, isn’t it? We are in an unprecedented time. So we’re trying to adapt and cope. As parents, the various aspects of how the quarantining and illness around the world is going to affect us is terrifying. Plus, the day to day of being constantly with our children, especially if our children have a large amount of needs, can really compound our stress. It can feel incredibly lonely. As schools are starting to gain some stability, it’s natural to have some questions and expectations from them. What I am asking of you, whoever you are, is to remember that every person you interact with is also stressed, uncertain, and figuring it out as they go. Please give your schools grace as you advocate for your child with special needs. With that said, here’s what I would expect from them…
Yes, Expect These Things:
- Your special education teacher should reach out to you. If your school is in session remotely, your SPED teacher should be making sure you are set for whatever the school education plan is.
- It is 100% reasonable for you to reach out to the school for help. While it is not a reasonable for someone to come to your house right now, it is okay to ask for ideas, tools, appropriate learning materials, etc.
- Speaking of appropriate materials… Schools are still open. That means that they should still be providing an appropriate education. This should be relative to what is happening for students who are in general education. For example, if everyone is just completing tailored online exercises, you shouldn’t expect your child to be purchasing something new – just for them. In a typical situation this would be different, but there is nothing about our country’s situation that is typical.
- It would be reasonable for you to ask for exemption from certain learning activities. For instance, if everyone is finishing a project from home and then making a video, and completing it together is creating huge blow outs, it’s reasonable to ask for it to be excused. Make sure you communicate beforehand and detail why you are asking for help.
Things That Would Be Nice, But Probably Not Everyone Will Do It:
- Having an addendum added to the IEP would be a really awesome way to ensure the IEP team is on the same page during the time we are social isolating. If you really want this, I would reach out to your special education teacher first.
- Receiving differentiated materials; if your school is sending home assignments. Especially for older students. Again, normally, not having differentiation would be unacceptable. However, we are not in a normal time. If the special education teacher is not in a position to, not allowed, or doesn’t actually have time with their other responsibilities, right now you should just ask to be excused or have the assignment reduced. Remember, we’re all figuring this out together.
- I personally think it’s very reasonable to advocate for some time each week for a special education teacher to meet with you and your student LIVE and digitally.
- It seems reasonable to ask and start the conversation about potential summer school options. Extended school year funding could be a way to make up lost service hours this school year.
What You Should NOT Expect:
- You should not expect the school to purchase something specific for your child. You can definitely argue that the school is still responsible for providing a free and appropriate instruction to your child, but also schools are trying to figure out how they are going to pay all their staff without school in session (not just teachers), adapt jobs, move to be online, and a million other things right now. So is fighting that battle really the right choice?
- You should not expect a teacher to be present digitally all day long for your child. There is not way that special education teachers will be able to meet with every child, individually, in their home for long periods of time. Very literally, there isn’t time in the day for that. You could advocate for an aid to be available, but they will also probably need to be split.
- You definitely shouldn’t expect for a professional to come to your home right now. For obvious reasons.
- You shouldn’t expect testing (for a re-evaluation or eligibility) to continue happening. I don’t see a way for that to continue digitally and still be reliable.
And Finally, Here’s A Few Tips That I Can Offer To Help:
- Reduce your expectations. Learning is a life long experience. I promise, that your child will recover from this educational blip. Our brains are wired to be resilient… even students who have disabilities.
- Focus on one or two positive learning experiences each day. And then celebrate them!
- Focus on retaining information rather than learning new information.
- Take time to laugh everyday.
- If you are looking for some fund learning activities: There are TONS of cheap printable activities for all skill levels on Teachers Pay Teachers.
- Survival is key here. If you are feeling crazy, and/or your child is feeling crazy, take a break. Step back for a minute and try again later. Also, don’t judge yourself if everyone is watching more TV than normal, or eating crap all the time. We are surviving.
- Think of a few basic routines and do them each day.
- If your child is going crazy because they are stuck at home, consider asking your teacher for their typical schedule and copy it as best you can. That could provide some comfort at home.
- Try to incorporate some things that your student doesn’t get at school. For example, read under the blankets, take tons of breaks, research things that they find interesting immediately, or abandon ship and stop assignments that are making everyone crazy!
Wrapping It Up
It’s totally normal to be upset right now, but I would encourage you to take a deep breath, and then think what is the most practical. How can I make my decisions “middle of the road” or create a reasonable compromise? Keep it positive. You’re doing great.