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Special Ed During School Closure in MA: What Should Your Child Get?

As time goes on and more guidance is provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education about special education services during school closure, I wanted to share the updated information.

  • While the previous guidance in the state of MA has been for the general education to focus on reinforcing material that has already been covered, the current guidance has shifted to preparing students to meet the most important standards for entering the grade they will be entering in the Fall 2020.

  • DESE is recommending that the remote learning includes a combination of direct instruction and provision of materials, packets and activities.

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a key piece of federal legislation describing the special education mandates, has not been modified for the time of school closure.

  • Your child is entitled to free and appropriate public education (FAPE) during school closure.

  • DESE is encouraging schools to provide as many services as possible now, starting from what is possible and continuing to expand.

  • Procedural aspects of special education, such as time lines for IEP meetings and development, as well as evaluations, have not been modified. The timelines can be extended on a case-by-case basis based on an agreements between districts and families.

  • If the child was supposed to be evaluated and that is now not possible without in person testing, the district is advised to use any existing data if possible to move forward.

  • Districts are required to provide remote learning plans for students in IEPs. These remote learning plans do not change the student’s IEP and do not change your “stay put” rights.

  • Parents don’t need to sign off on remote learning plans. However, there can be a collaborative discussion with the district about the types of services provided under those plans.

  • The remote learning plans should address your child’s IEP goals and objectives. Your child is expected to make progress.

  • Your district professionals should be reaching out to you regularly to provide any support you might need. If no one has reached out to you, contact you district to request assistance in working with your child.

  • You child’s teachers and providers should have office hours so that you can sign up for a remote appointment in advance.

  • All the general education instruction and materials provided to your child should be modified to be accessible. Additionally, your child should be receiving materials directly from special education teachers and related services providers depending on your child’s IEP.

  • The guidance from DESE is that services such as special education, speech and language therapy, OT, PT and ABA can be provided online.

  • IEP team meetings should be held online or on the phone. There is no special requirements, waivers, or procedures for these meetings that are needed.

  • All the above applies to public and charter schools, as well as collaboratives, Chapter 766 schools and residential schools.

  • Currently, there is no information on summer school or Extended Service Year (ESY).

What you can do to prepare for the time when schools open:

  • Document your child’s ability to attend online classes and therapy sessions, as well as participate in other remote learning activities. I am including a link to a log developed by the Federation for Children with Special Needs that can be helpful in efficiently keeping track of things.

  • Make sure to note any loss of skills that you are seeing

  • Reach out to your district pro-actively , and in writing, to request support or suggest specific supports your child requires

  • Document your communication with the district (emails are fine)

Here is a link to a sample of what a remote learning plan can look like:

Here is link to a log you can use to keep track of your child’s engagement:

Please let me know if I can be of help during this time. I am happy to discuss communication with district, remote learning plans, the services your child is receiving or how to help your child be more engaged in learning.

I hope everyone is doing well under the circumstances. Stay healthy and safe!

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