Can My Child with Autism Still Get Special Education Services During COVID-19?
With schools closing throughout the state, virtual learning has emerged as the mainstay for educating California’s students. But, the barriers for distance learning, including having little or no experience with videoconferencing and the need for electronic devices and consistent access to the internet for typically developing children, quickly became apparent to parents, teachers and the school districts. And it is children with disabilities who have to overcome even more obstacles to learn. The big question remains: can your child with autism still get special education services during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The short answer is, yes. Children with disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education. If a state or school district decides that all students must be taught at home for public safety, it must have a plan for special education services. Many states and schools have already put these plans in place, while others are just beginning to do so.
Schools will also need to plan for how kids can use accommodations or get equal access if learning is online or at home. This could mean providing assistive technology tools or other support.
What about the special education services in my child’s IEP?
The U.S. Department of Education says schools must “make every effort to provide special education and related services” to students. But it notes that there could be “exceptional circumstances” that change how services take place.
Many IEP services are provided one-on-one or in small groups. For example, your child’s IEP might require 30 minutes of occupational therapy. How will the school deliver this? Will there be enough staff to send someone to every family’s home? Is this safe?
Schools will need to figure out a lot of details. If services are missed, the U.S. Department of Education says IEP teams must consider make-up or services that compensate for what is in your child’s IEP.
As schools continue to manage the coronavirus, there may be situations where families and schools disagree. Despite any differences, it’s important to work together to make sure everyone stays safe and your child with autism gets the special education services she needs.
Can I still have an IEP meeting?
Yes. Federal law has always allowed families and schools to agree on having virtual IEP team meetings, either by phone or video conference. This is important now that states and schools are discouraging in-person gatherings.
Both families and schools have the right to ask for an IEP meeting at any time. Some states have specific timelines for IEP meetings, while others don’t.
If you participate in a virtual IEP meeting, keep in mind that it’s illegal in some states to video or audio record the meeting. Some schools also have policies against recording.
Another thing to know is that because of privacy laws, you might not be able to use your favorite videoconference software for an IEP meeting. Many states and schools are looking into meeting platforms that protect student privacy.
Finally, if you want to meet in person, the U.S. Department of Education has said that “IEP teams are not required to meet in person while schools are closed.”
If you are overwhelmed and you feel you need help, you can always reach out to us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
CONTACT US FOR HELP.
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