AIR Informs Episode #6: Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities During COVID-19

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Remote learning requires adjustment for all students, but students with disabilities face additional challenges during the COVID-19 quarantine. In the latest episode of AIR Informs, Allison Gandhi, managing researcher and director of AIR’s special education practice area, describes some of these obstacles and shares strategies to help students make the most of this time.

  • Providing hands-on or one-on-one services is a major challenge for students with disabilities right now. This task often falls on parents, who certainly know and understand their child’s needs, but may be simultaneously juggling other responsibilities, like work or family duties. They also may not have the specific expertise of trained school staff. In general, the type of services that students require vary significantly, based on the nature of the disability and its severity.
  • Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) can and should be adjusted as necessary. By design, IEPs should be customized for each student and updated to match their progress. In this virtual environment, students may have different needs than before, and it may make sense to set new goals. Therefore, schools and parents should take this opportunity to review and potentially revise the IEP. They should also discuss strategies to measure students’ progress—data collected now will be very helpful for a child’s future teachers. Most importantly, both parents and school staff should strive for flexibility, frequent communication, and collaboration.
  • There are several ways that parents can help set their students up for success. Maintaining as much continuity as possible will really help students. This includes reinforcing routines, providing activities that have proven effective for their students, and consistent access to school staff, even remotely. Families can learn a lot from this period—for example, which activities and learning platforms work best for their student. As schools and families collaborate, they will also get to know each other better, and that stronger relationship will be an asset even after they return to the classroom.

Here are some resources to help parents and educators of students with disabilities: