E-learning and special education: What parents need to know now

Posted at 5:23 AM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 07:23:46-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — If you're a parent right now in the age of COVID-19, you're not alone in feeling the stress of helping your child with e-learning. It's especially true for parents with students who have special needs.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 7 million students receive special education services outside of the classroom. Many of them require face-to-face interaction, such as speech, cognitive, and occupational therapy.

Students with special needs are given individual education programs, or IEPs. It's basically a lesson plan tailored for that child and includes services and support. But, if your child's IEP includes speech or physical therapy, that's where e-learning comes into play as well as the challenges with it.

School districts in southern Colorado are scrambling to make sure students with special needs don't fall through the cracks.

"Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet or one resource that we can give to all families," said Allison Cortez, public information officer for District 20. "It ranges from someone who has Asperger's to someone who is dyslexic or has a speech impediment. It is so broad."

That's why local school districts are urging parents to keep in touch with their case manager. He or she can guide the parent when it comes to scheduling speech therapy sessions, and other activities that can be done virtually.

"Some activities are just so hard to do virtually," said Judy Gudvangen, executive director of the Special Education program for District 11. "Things like occupational and physical therapy in many cases, we might be looking at a consultative model, where we give parents activities to use with their child at home."

Cortez and Gudvangen also suggest parents set a schedule for their child everyday. Cortez says some District 20 parents have set up a "calm room" for their kids. It's a safe space for them to decompress, and video chat with their case manager, or psychologist.

Don't forget to celebrate the small victories you achieve, while also reviewing what the child has already learned. Be careful not to get too overwhelmed.

This is not only a challenging time for parents, but also teachers. Gudvangen says her district has a network of Special Education teachers who rely on each other for strength, guidance, and encouragement.

"This is a huge change for us all, and I am so fortunate to be able to lean on a network of others within my district."

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