Preparing Children With Special Needs for the Return to School After COVID-19
The return to school often comes with some challenges, from early morning wake times to planning for the resources needed in the classroom. The start of the school year takes a toll on both students and parents alike. So how will return Post COVID-19 look different? And what can parents do now to help prepare their child for it?
Acclimate your child to likely safety protocols.
Masks. For students that can tolerate wearing a bandana or mask, work with your behaviorist and team members now on how to accomplish this, should it be requested by your child’s school. With enough time and preparation, this may enable students to wear them that might otherwise have had difficulty. Suggestions for this include social stories, family members wearing them, making or decorating them together, and starting slowly for minimal time increments (one or two minutes per day). Consider clear view masks for DHH learners. Ashley Lawrence of Eastern Kentucky University has created a mask that enables lip reading during utilization.
Handwashing Stations. As you can imagine, there will also probably be hand washing stations along with hand sanitizers in classrooms and at the entrances of schools. If your child finds frequent hand washing aversive, try foaming hand soaps as they are a bit more gentle, tolerable, and fun. In addition, wipes can also be utilized. Social stories are also great in this area as well to help provide guidance. In regards to hand sanitizer, you may consider using the non-aloe version if your child is texture sensitive. Some stores sell spray bottle versions that tend to dry faster and provide less texture overall. These may be tolerated better by persons with tactile sensitivities.
Review your school’s calendar. Some districts and individual schools have changed their calendars in order to adjust for lost instruction time.
Review your IEP. Now that you have been teaching your student at home for a few weeks, consider whether your IEP still reflects all the correct supports your child needs in order to be successful.
Review your service records. Were any service hours missed as a result of the school closure? If so, follow up with your service providers to determine when it might be possible to make up those hours.
Check in with your case manager. There will likely be adjustments regarding how services and supports are provided. Make sure you understand how those changes may impact your student.
Touch base with teachers. Let them know about the progress your student made during the closure and update them regarding any important changes in behavior or medication regimen.
Get an update on ESY. If your student is entitled to participate in ESY, find out when it will begin and how it will be conducted. If ESY will be held online, find out what support you may be required to provide, if any.
Stay organized. As always, make sure that your student’s IEPs’ assessments and service records are organized in a binder so that you can access them quickly and easily when meeting with school representatives.
The one consistency in this last month is that we all need to be flexible, if not malleable, on almost a daily basis. Your school and LEA are there to help support the educational development of your child during this difficult time. If you have concerns related to your child’s IEP or 504 plan, you should always try to communicate and collaborate with school and LEA representatives to come up with creative solutions to meet your child needs.
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