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Special Education Distance Learning Webinar Notes

Notes from the April 2, 2020 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Update Webinar on Best Practices in Distance Ed for Students with Special Needs.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Main Web Page

Date: 4/2/2020
Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Facilitator: Kristin Wright
Panel Members (in order of appearance): Mindy, Humbolt-Del Norte SELPA; Tony Aguilar, LAUSD; Robbie Kreitz, Dublin Unified School Dist.; Shawna Draxton, WISH Community Academy Charter School (LA); Heather and Lindsay Eureka, Winzler Children’s Center, Humbolt-Del Norte

Key Takeaways: Best Practices

  1. Identify needs of students and families as quickly as possible
    1. First, establish that social, emotional, health, etc. needs are met
      1. Connect families with services and resources
    2. Then identify possible access and accommodation issues
      1. Partner with service providers, community groups, etc. to meet needs of families
        1. Technology access (computers, internet hotspots, mobile devices)
        2. Food and other services
  2. Based on needs analysis, develop Distance Learning Plan. This is a best practice tool and not a mandate.
    1. Plan should prioritize goals from Individual Development Plan (IDP) – keep in mind that not all needs can be addressed through Distance Learning (DL)
    2. Distance Learning Plans (DLPs) are essential for ongoing communication
    3. Can be used to coordinate schedules
    4. Should be reviewed at least every two weeks
    5. Must include Special Education (SPED) provisions to ensure all students are considered
  3. Identify staff and teacher needs and address as possible
    1. Provide training for new DL technology and provide resources and guidance
    2. Provide a variety of delivery options that may be used separately or in conjunction
      1. Teleconferencing
      2. Learning Management System (LMS)
      3. Bi-weekly or regular sessions with students
      4. Zoom, Google Classrooms, WebEX, etc.
    3. Teachers should:
      1. Set office hours
      2. Communicate as frequently as they would with traditional Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) (to the degree possible)
      3. Log all interactions and communication and share logs with other specialists to collaborate and provide greater support
      4. Collaborate with GE and SPED Grade Level teams to continue to develop and maintain successful DL experience for all students to the degree possible
      5. Service providers should also follow above guidance
  4. Communicate with students and families frequently to reassure them that support is available and to check in
    1. Service providers and case managers should have regular contact with their students and families as well
    2. Create amendments to IEPs based on communication with families and changing needs of students during DL experience
    3. Frequent contact makes parents feel heard and may provide some comfort if they struggle to educate their child at home
    4. If possible, offer 1:1 counseling sessions (both academic and mental health) through Zoom or similar program will help provide students with support
  5. Hold virtual IEP meetings
    1. Ensure confidentiality and parental consent
    2. Work with necessary faculty, staff, and administrators to make sure school/district has a policy for handling IEP meetings
    3. Walk parents through process prior to meeting
      1. If possible, practice with parents prior to meeting if using Zoom or similar service
  6. Provide ongoing support and resources to families, students, and teachers
    1. Encourage teachers to attend virtual PD workshops
    2. Provide teachers with more guidance, best practices, and resources
    3. As possible, provide teachers with financial support to develop a workspace that is conducive to DL
    4. Provide students with “in-class” support during virtual learning sessions to the degree possible
    5. As possible, provide physical accommodations to students at home
      1. WISH Academy maintains a “Materials and Supplies” Google form where students and parents can request adaptive software and other accommodations like special chairs
    6. Provide families, teachers, and staff with tech support and assistance for new DL technology

NOTE:  Communication and collaboration were stressed throughout the webinar by all speakers. It is an important element that permeates all other areas addressed above. Collaboration with both teacher groups and parents was presented as a major factor in the success of a school or program’s transition to DL. While it is listed as #4 in the above summary, it should be seen as overarching.

Questions:   California Department of Education |
Last Reviewed: Monday, February 5, 2024