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Engaging Families Webinar Notes

Notes from the April 9, 2020 Distance Learning Innovations for Special Education Webinar: Engaging Families.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Main Web Page

Key Takeaways

How to Remain a “Community” While Our Physical School Sites are Closed:

  1. Supporting parents as they take on the role of educators
  2. Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is still in place
    1. Flexibility is needed
    2. For many students, the special education supports and services need to be delivered in a different way
    3. Current adaptations to the delivery of support is not meant to replace the Individualized Education Programs (IEP) that will still be in place when we return to the school sites
  3. We will not lose our focus on inclusion

Mario from Teams of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK) Shared the Following:

  1. Statewide supports are available from Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Family Empowerment Centers (FECs). Educators can refer families to these resources in their area. PTIs and FECs are in place to assist families, children, and young adults with disabilities to navigate the Special Education system, serving as a bridge between families and schools
    1. PTIs
      1. Federally Funded
      2. 105 Locations
      3. Seven Offices in California
      4. Find Your Center External link opens in new window or tab.
    2. FECs
      1. State Funded
      2. California has 14 Offices
      3. Seeds of Parternship website External link opens in new window or tab.
    3. Families can be assisted with a wide range of topics by the PTIs and FECs
      1. Basic Needs
        1. Food
        2. Shelter
        3. Diapers
      2. Stress
        1. Unemployment
        2. Health Issues
        3. Isolation
      3. Connectivity Issues
        1. Lack of technology
        2. Language barriers
        3. Not understanding educational materials and how to deploy them
      4. Uncertainty about IEPs
    4. Schools can get support in managing the overwhelming task of preparing for distance learning
      1. Clarification on IEP compliance issues
      2. Addressing basic needs
        1. Health
        2. Technology and connectivity
      3. Ideas for including students with disabilities into the distance learning model
    5. PTIs and FECs can support families and schools with a variety of tools—Communication and collaboration are critical at this time.
      1. Dissemination of information from schools to families
        1. Contact your PTI or FEC and share the information that your school needs to have distributed
      2. Support Groups
      3. Webinars
      4. Communicating directly
        1. Calls
        2. Emails
        3. Social Media
      5. Website resource lists
    6. Priorities—General Guidance from PTIs and FECs to families
      1. Self-care            
        1. Mental Health
        2. Wellbeing
      2. The needs of your family
        1. Create a flexible routine
      3. Communicate with child’s school site
        1. Be proactive in asking for assignments, clarification, and assistance
      4. Have patience
    7. Specific Recommendations to families
      1. Identify and contact your local FEC or PTI via the Seeds of Partnership or the Parent Center Hub websites (links will be posted at the end of this document)

Melinda Melgar from Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

Offered a timeline of the past 4 weeks

  1. First Week and a half
    1. Canceled major events
    2. Followed Los Angeles Unified School District’s lead and closed “for 2 weeks”
    3. Teachers prepared packets for parents to home school
    4. Arranged to provide 2 meals a day
    5. Sent out Tech Survey to determine what families had access to
    6. Decided to pay all staff during closure
  2. Week 2
    1. Learned that closure would last to May 1
    2. Finalized guidance for related services
      1. Services are provided by outside vendors
        1. Most services could continue virtually
    3. Passed out Chromebooks to families who needed them
      1. Prioritized high school students for technology loans
    4. Student/Family services coordinators reached out to families and assisted with basic needs (housing, employment)
  3. Week 3
    1. Set up a technology trouble shooting inbox for technical support for families.
    2. Spent a week in professional development
      1. 3 hours a day
        1. Online platforms
        2. Lesson planning
    3. Closure was extended
  4. Spring Break
    1. Ready for distance learning
    2. Ready for virtual IEP meetings
    3. Ongoing communication
      1. ParentSquare, robocalls, social media, Prior Written Notices, coordination of messages
  5. Assure families of continuity of academics
  6. Teaching with both technology and paper and pencil
    1. Lesson plans are being created to accommodate students no matter what resource they have (tablet, phone, personal computer, or nothing)
  7. A common thread with all presenters seems to be wrap-around services for vulnerable families.
  8. Figure out a plan to connect with families who are not engaging

Samantha Pellitteri – School Psychologist, Adjunct Professor, and Parent of a Student Receiving Special Education Services

  1. Son receives supports (40% general education, 60% mild/moderate supports)
    1. 1:1 aide
    2. Speech
    3. Occupational Therapy
    4. Physical Therapy
    5. In-Home tutoring
    6. Partial school day
  2. Reports similar timeline
    1. Temporary school closure
    2. Extended closure
    3. School sent resources and email
      1. Too many emails (this was overwhelming to wade through)
    4. Spring break
    5. Set up her own schedule and plan for her son
    6. Contacted his team and coordinated a long-term plan
      1. Prioritizing health
      2. Making meaningful tasks
      3. Allowing time for social connections
      4. Minimize regression
  3. Suggestions from a parent
    1. What didn’t work
      1. Too many mass emails to wade through
    2. What was useful
      1. Texts and email from teachers and providers
      2. Clear communication from team
        1. Planned weekly zoom meeting at end of week
      3. IEP team coordination
        1. Teacher created a google doc with a schedule that school and family have access to
        2. Outline goals
        3. Make time for breaks
      4. This coordinated schedule allows family to schedule their day also
      5. Quality over quantity
  4. New Goal
    1. Contact general education choir teacher to arrange interaction with the choir class again

Kristen Brooks summarized the meeting by highlighting a few common threads about communication and allowing families to make decisions about what works for them.

Kevin Shaffer Announced Upcoming Webinar Schedule:

  • April 16th: Webinar #3: Serving Students Across Transition Stages and Ages
    • SELPA perspective on secondary transition support
    • Teacher experience secondary transition distance learning (urban)
    • District provision of resources and support for 18-22 year-old adult programs to preschool (rural)
    • Infant/Toddler Part C transition to Part B
  • Beginning Wednesday, April 23rd from 3-4:30pm:
    • Secondary Transition webinar series hosted by the Ca
    • Transition Alliance
  • Every Wednesday through June 3rd

Resource Links

Questions:   California Department of Education |
Last Reviewed: Monday, February 05, 2024