The MLO Minute: By Caitlin McAndrews, Esq.
By this point, most school districts in Pennsylvania and Delaware have sent some form of written notice to parents of children with IEPs, advising what educational services to expect while schools are closed during the pandemic. Some districts have sent letters, some have sent Notices of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREPs) or Prior Written Notices (PWNs). (NOREPs and PWNs are different names for the same type of document.)
The content of these documents varies significantly. Some districts provided information about specific services that individual students could expect to receive remotely; others sent the same document to all families and advised only that schools were closed and services would change.
We have had many parents contact us to inquire about the meaning of these documents and how to respond. Consider the following questions in reviewing your child’s pandemic notice:
- If your child normally receives specialized instruction with a special education teacher, do you know if your child will still have contact with that teacher? When and how often? Will the teacher deliver online classes and/or distribute work?
- If your child normally receives specialized instruction within the general education environment, will he or she participate in the same online classes or receive the same work packets as general education students? Who should you and your child contact with questions about instruction and work?
- If your child normally receives specialized academic instruction, do you know how your child will access instruction in those areas? Is your child expected to sign online for scheduled classes or complete assigned work?
- If your child normally receives speech/language, occupational, or physical therapy, will he or she have teletherapy sessions with a pathologist over the computer? If so, when and how often? If not, can you speak to the therapist for tips to support your child at home and help prevent or reduce regression?
- If your child uses a specialized curriculum, do you have access to materials?
- If your child normally receives social skills instruction, do you know how that instruction will continue to be delivered, if at all?
- If your child receives counseling or psychological services, will he or she continue to receive services through a teletherapy model? If so, when and how often?
If you do not know the answers to any of these questions, or if reading these questions sparks others, reach out to your case manager or special education coordinator. The U.S. Department of Education has encouraged parents and schools to be flexible and collaborative, so approach communication as productively as possible. Be polite but firm in your request for information about services for your child. If you do not get clear information, follow up. You should have sufficient information to understand the services that your child, as an individual, will receive.
This is a trying time for everyone, and it can be especially difficult for children with disabilities. Carefully reviewing your school district’s plan for providing services, and working together to obtain clarification and structure now can help minimize regression and educational struggles in the long run.