We have received guidance from the national, state, and district level on how we are to provide services to students on IEPs, what changes – if any – need to be made to their IEPs and supports needed to ensure accessibility. Ultimately we are required to follow all of the legal requirements to provide FAPE to our students, which is the basis of the IEP.
Because our students’ IEPs have been written to meet their needs in the school building, there is a good chance they do not meet their needs in this new situation of remote learning. If you are requested to have amendment IEP meetings, I would like to challenge you to consider a few things as you revisit each student’s IEP. There is not a right or wrong answer, and the answer may be different for every one of your students.
Our Concerns for Our Students
- Is our concern that they keep up with the level of instruction that they had access to when they were on campus, that they do not fall behind in their learning, and/or that they are able to maintain the skills they have currently have?
- Is our concern that they have access to the same instruction as their same age peers, with all on- and off-line materials and coursework accessible and/or adapted as needed?
- Is our concern that they have access to communication with staff and classmates so that they don’t feel abandoned?
- Is our concern that they have someone to sign with periodically if the family does not use sign language?
- Is our concern that they have something to do to keep from being bored that might provide them with some incidental learning?
- Is our concern that they have the structure in their home to help reduce behaviors and meltdowns?
- Is our concern what is happening in the home and with the stress level of the parents, as they add on the responsibilities of home schooling and child care while still trying to work (whether in or out of the home)?
Whichever concerns apply, the families’ needs should be very high on our priority list (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). We are in a crisis situation, and we are having to learn how to navigate through a lot of unknown territory with a map that changes daily. Recently there was an article published that exemplifies so much of what the parents I have been talking to are feeling right now “The Parents are Not All Right.” For those of us trying to work and homeschool at the same time, we may feel this article was written about us!
That doesn’t mean we don’t do anything with our students. That means we need to build what we do around the needs of their families in ways other than what their accessibility to instructional materials may looks like.
Student IEP goals and objectives:
Our students have goals and objectives to support their progress in the general curriculum. While some of those are still appropriate right now, the IEP committees will need to make some decisions on whether those are the priority right now.
- What are the mental health needs of the students, and are they in a place that instruction can even happen?
- Can our “instruction” look different, so that the students are still learning concepts and growing, maybe not in the 7th grade math standards, but in their ability to think outside the box, be creative, address 21st century skills in ways that don’t feel like learning but actually are?
- And how do goals and objectives need to be written to accomplish this?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it is a discussion that NEEDS to happen!
Teachers have made science scavenger hunts, 30 STEM challenges, fun activities that don’t feel like instruction and often can be done without parents having to provide direct instruction. And they are all addressing grade level standards, 21st century skills, language acquisition, and so much more. That is what instruction could look like right now, and those are ideas that could be discussed in our IEP meetings.
We have a preschool deaf ed teacher who has created language challenges and is texting these to her parents daily. This one is my very favorite one. All of her language challenges have to do with items already in the home, and most of them are already in a family’s routine, so it doesn’t feel like “more work.” Many of the challenges are appropriate for children who are older than preschool as well.
Parent Goals and Objectives:
In IEP meetings, we should be addressing the needs of the parents in regards to their children in the home, though we often only think about in-home training for students with autism. Right now, we need to be considering that a parent “IEP” may be way more important than the student IEP!
While we may not have official parent goals, there are things we could be discussing in IEP meetings that will guide what our student IEPs might look like.
- “Let’s put aside the current goals and objectives for now and consider what temporary ones may need to look like right now.”
- What can we work on with you and your child (and your whole family) that would be helpful to you right now, in our current situation?
- What conversations can we have, what resources would you like, what can we provide that will help you?
- What conversations do you need to have with your child that we could help to help facilitate, whether we are providing the sign support, the social story, picture communication symbols?
- How can we SUPPORT you in what you are doing? Consider things like helping to create materials to support a daily schedule or routines within schedule; helping make sure your child can connect with friends periodically; allowing your child’s favorite paraprofessional to read them a story on video or on the phone if no computer (can be prerecorded if need be).
Even if we are not updating IEPs, and if the students’ IEP calls for us to provide direct instruction rather than indirect or consult services, the above questions may need to be conversations we have with parents. In our new territory, our parents may need instruction from us more than our students do.
Just a few things to consider…