- For schools holding virtual IEP meetings this fall, educators can help ensure the events are comfortable and meaningful for students by employing nine strategies outlined in District Administration.
- Schools can send materials to students and their families at least a few days in advance of the meeting so they can review them beforehand. Then during the meeting, educators can ask students what they feel worked or didn’t work during the most recent school year.
- Faculty and staff can encourage the use of cameras during the gathering, but also show families how to use a virtual background for privacy. Screen sharing can help students and families glean more details, and chat messages can provide a venue for students who don’t want to be on camera to ask questions.
Serving students with special needs remotely was a big concern in the spring and will continue to be an issue this fall. Besides the IEP meeting, educators in charge of curriculum need to continue to ensure these students are getting what they need if school continues from home or in a hybrid in-person/digital learning format.
Prior to the pandemic, school districts were already working to make the IEP process more effective and easier to navigate for families. Research released earlier this year by the Center for Reinventing Public Education found a lack of specialized expertise leaving families with difficult choices, as well as an ongoing need for more detailed information about programs despite improvement in the choice process overall.
For its part, the U.S. Department of Labor last year ruled IEP meetings are a valid reason for taking family and medical leave.
Beyond working out the details of each student's IEP, however, schools must also navigate a wide range of resources and tools to support the different learning styles of students with special needs while also expanding equity and accessibility. These include vision-impaired options, such as the Read Aloud Chrome extension Google offers and free text-to-speech programs, as well as assistive technologies such as closed captions on video content for hearing-impaired students.
When these students' needs are not considered in advance, they can sometimes wait six to eight weeks for learning resources that work for them, according to the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training. That can put these children in danger of falling behind in their learning, as compared to their classmates.
And some educators are already concerned about the impact of remote learning and whether it has contributed to learning loss for all types of students.
The Council for Exceptional Children compiled a resource list for educators specifically focused on how to support special needs students and their families. Schools continuing to incorporate online learning can find options from materials for specific subjects, such as math, to webinars tailored to the special education community.
There are even resources for educators on how to monitor their own feelings to ensure they're not only taking care of their students, but themselves.