Learning Difference and Distance Learning:
How To Best Help Your Child Get The Services They Deserve
So here we are, at the end of the first quarter and still no end to distance learning. For many students they are doing alright. Yes, it might be boring and they miss seeing friends between classes, but overall they are managing to keep their grades up without huge upheaval.
But, and here is the but, there are many students who typically either have an established IEP/504 or simply need a little something extra to keep up. What about those students? There is no easy way to give a struggling student a little something extra without the entire class knowing about it, since, well, the whole class is on the screen together. This blog post will address ways to work with the teacher, support professionals, school administration, and the school district.
The first thing to do is to partner with your child's teacher. Sounds so simple, but honestly many parents skip this step and go for the big guns. Getting your son or daughter he or she deserves requires taking it step by step; start small and move gradually to the big guns (or the district). Reach out to the classroom teacher. Acknowledge that you realize he or she is super busy but you'd like just a minute of their time to talk about your child. It should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway, but document, document, document! If you have a conversation with someone send an email following the conversation summarizing what you spoke about and whether you decided on any next actions. The two of you should be able to come up with some preliminary interventions for either you to implement at home or the teacher to implement during class time. Although you may be busy yourself with work, try to hover on the edges at various times during the day. Keep a log of how things are going. What interventions are working? What interventions aren't working? Have you tried something new at home? Write that down too. Paul Barger, Esq. recommends the following:
Create a binder, either physically or electronically, with several categories and include as much documentation as you can:
- All written communication with teachers, therapists and the district. If you speak with someone via phone, send them an email after to summarize your conversation.
- Any missed related services sessions (such as speech/language, OT, PT, counseling), which are very important to note during this time period.
- What you’re witnessing at home during distance learning, including:
- When your child begins to struggle and what their triggers are (such as a full day of video instruction)
- What work they were assigned vs. what they were able to complete
- Meltdowns or refusals
- How long it took to complete the work
When we speak about those children with legally binding IEPs or 504s allowances need to be made due to distance learning. That does not mean they should fall by the way-side though. There are many accommodations that can be done, rather unobtrusively, for students with learning differences. The documentation you've been keeping, regarding behavior at home during and surrounding class time will come in handy here.
If they are struggling with executive functioning and just generally keeping themselves organized, perhaps have a paraprofessional check in with them before class to make sure your child has all the materials needed for that class. And then, rather than extending the class to drum in facts and figures that have already been tuned out after a seemingly endless amount of class time on Zoom, why not have that paraprofessional check in with your child to make sure all the assignments are understood and your child is able to prepare for the next time the class meets?
Another way to help a student struggling is to have the classroom teacher email home the lesson presentation or a copy of the class notes. THIS IS NOT CHEATING!!!!! This is giving every student what he or she needs to be successful. And you know what? Your son or daughter deserves to succeed.
So to summarize, start locally and slowly, with plenty of documentation, move higher up on the chain of command (classroom-->case manager-->social worker/psychologist-->vice principal-->principal-->school board-->school district). And always remember, these are unchartered times. Everyone is learning as they go so bring with you a large dose of patience.