Starting a new school year is hard enough, but now in the pandemic there is so much more to think about!
Read on for tips, assurances and links to the information you need to help your child start strong in 2020.
Louisiana schools are preparing for three flexible learning scenarios:
- Virtual: all online
- Traditional: all in-person
- Hybrid: a combination of virtual and in-person
Each district will choose one of these to start the year. For each scenario, schools must continue to provide high-quality instruction and specialized services that support the needs of students with disabilities.
We all have questions! Sometimes, there are no answers, but we can do our best be open, stay calm, and work together.
The key to everything is good communication - with the school and with your child. It helps to remember two points:
- The school wants to help your child, just like you do. Push for what your child needs, but work together as a team. The COVID-19 restrictions are hard for everyone.
- Kids are resilient! Talk to your child about what's happening and how we have to adjust. Let them know what to expect. They can surprise us if we give them the chance.
Communicating with the teacher
If your child is having trouble for any reason, don't suffer in silence! Stay in touch with the teacher and work with them to find solutions.
Tips for communicating:
- Decide on a point person for communication about your child’s progress, challenges, and needs for support. This could be your child’s classroom teacher, a special education teacher, or another teacher or service provider.
- Talk to them about the best way to communicate (email, phone, video call) and how often to connect (daily, weekly, bi-weekly).
- If the home environment is not letting them meet their needs, discuss other supports and services.
- See the other section on Working with the school.
Know your rights!
The rights of students with disabilities have not changed, no matter which way your child is doing their schooling this year.
If your child has an IEP, the school still needs to honor it. You may have to make changes and add specific supports if they cannot provide the services face-to-face.
More about your education rights:
- Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, all students are guaranteed a public education that meets their unique needs. These are their legal rights through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law.
- The school still must provide the special instruction and services on your child's IEP. They may have to deliver them differently, but you and the rest of the team have to figure out a plan that works.
- Remember that you always have the right to call an IEP meeting to discuss the needs of your child.
- Here is an overview of IDEA rights, and here is Louisiana’s Handbook, which explains them in detail. (Click to open this info in separate windows.)
Health and Safety
How can I keep my child safe? What about the teachers and staff? Can my child wear a mask all day? These are big concerns! We want our children to stay safe, but we also want them to learn at their best level and be able to socialize with their friends.
If your child is back in school in person or in a hybrid model, follow the school safety rules!
Tips to keep everyone healthy at school:
- Wearing a mask. This may not be easy for many kids. Help them get used to it by talking about "why", practicing, giving rewards, and helping them choose their own style.
- Social distancing. Keeping apart is hard for many kids. Work with the teacher to come up with creative solutions to help your child follow the distancing rules.
- Don't send them to school sick. Be good about temperature checks. This is to keep everyone safe!
- Worry and anxiety. Mental health is a concern these days. Keep an eye on your child's moods and behavior. Talk to them about how they feel. If they need more support, talk to the teacher and school counselor.
- Higher risk? If your child or a family member living in your home has health problems that put them at increased risk for COVID-19, talk with the teacher and principal. They should be able to arrange a way for your child to do remote learning if there is a higher risk.
Click on these resources to open in a new window:
Your school is a community, and everyone has a responsibility to work together to keep it safe. If the virus spreads to more people, all aspects of school will be harder. They may have to go to fully remote. But we have the power to reduce the spread!
Supporting schoolwork at home
Whether your school is doing remote, in-person, or hybrid learning, this new year will take some getting used to! Prepare your child by talking about the schedule and the new routines that will be part of their day.
Also see this other section: How can I help my child at home?
Tips for at-home learning:
- Set up daily routines for school and homework. You can use visual calendars and daily or weekly planners to keep track.
- Arrange a quiet space for your child to work to limit distractions.
- Break tasks or assignments into smaller pieces and use timers to support focus.
- Plan for frequent breaks, especially ones to keep them active.
- Let your child connect with friends by phone, video calls, or in small groups outside.
- If you do not have reliable internet, talk to your child's teacher or the principal. Ask if the district can help you to get connected.
If your child has an IEP
The school still must provide the special instruction and services on your child's IEP. They may have to deliver them differently, but you and the rest of the team have to figure out a plan that works.
Tips for managing IEP services:
- Meetings may have to be by video-conference, but they should still happen. Remember you can ask for an IEP meeting anytime. Click here for tips on virtual meetings.
- Review your child's IEP and decide if it will still work in the new learning environment. You may have to adjust goals, services, accommodations or adaptive equipment.
- If there are things your child may need to make their learning work this year, put them in writing on the IEP. These could be things like adaptive equipment to manage remote learning at home, an extra goal to de-sensitize and help them wear their mask, or counseling services to manage increased anxiety.
- Therapies and other specialized services may also have to be done on video. Click here for some recordings of short webinars by therapists with tips on doing virtual sessions for speech, OT, ABA and mental health counseling.
Remember that this is new to everyone! Schools, districts and families are all doing their best to keep everyone safe and help kids to learn at their best level. The key to making it work is to be patient, have high expectations, and communicate clearly with your school and IEP team.
Click on these Louisiana Dept. of Education resources to open in a new window:
- Strong Start 2020 Family Toolbox for Students with Disabilities
- Louisiana Back-to-School Guide for Parent of Students with Disabilities
- Activities & Resources for While You're Home with Kids with Special Needs
- School Reopening FAQ
- Louisiana Dept. of Education Coronavirus Info Page
- Louisiana's Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities
See these other Exceptional Lives topics to learn more about how to support your child: