Students in special education programs can thrive during remote learning if families feel supported and prepared

First things first: educators, you deserve a standing ovation for switching your classrooms to remote learning almost overnight this past spring. While you continue to have significant challenges facing you as remote learning continues in many districts, I have no doubt that you will all rise to the challenge and work to create amazing virtual special education learning environments. As you conceptualize your “return from break” plan, I encourage you to explore the power of supporting families in order to better reach all students.

As an educator (and perhaps as a parent yourself), you most likely have insight into one of the hard truths about remote learning right now: caregivers are NOT all right. Families of students in special education are especially concerned by how much their students have to lose due to schools moving online. Many of our students require hands-on learning, take months or even years to learn certain concepts and routines, and can quickly lose skills without in-person school interactions. Repetition, social skills, and behavior plans are all part of our daily special education routines and everything changed when schools went virtual last spring.

Caregivers are concerned that their student is regressing and losing skills they fought hard to obtain, perpetuating the ever-increasing gap between general education and special education. They also may not have any assistance with their children who have significant behavior and health challenges. Caregivers feel tired and overwhelmed. They care deeply about their children and their education but find remote learning a challenge.

Educators need immediate collaboration with caregivers in order to reach all of our students remotely. We can rewrite IEP goals to reflect changes stemming from school closures, create the most engaging, exciting online lessons, and try our best to connect with each student, but this does not help us if caregivers never log on or set their student up for learning at home. By supporting caregivers, there will be a trickle-down effect for students, and we will see more work completion, increase learning growth, and help more students reach their IEP goals.

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