My bilingual son has an IEP, and I still don’t know how it will work remotely

Like many parents, Melissa Torres has concerns about the new school year. Her son, Yael, is 10 and just started fifth grade — remotely. Yael experienced distance learning last spring. But Melissa wasn’t with him during the shutdown and is new to all of this.

Yael has ADHD and an IEP for support. He gets extra time for tests and one-on-one time with a bilingual special education teacher. But with distance learning continuing this fall, Melissa wonders how much support Yael will get. So far, he’s not getting the support outlined in his IEP because the school hasn’t yet worked out how to do it remotely.

Together, Melissa and Yael are managing the ups and downs of remote learning, while Melissa juggles her work as a medical disability examiner.

Here, Melissa Torres tells her story to writer Tara Drinks.

Yael’s first language was Spanish, and when he first started school, he didn’t have a bilingual teacher. So it was very hard for him to learn English. His teachers would always tell me how smart he is and how good he is at math, but that he learns differently and gets distracted easily. At first, the school gave him a 504 plan. Last year, it was changed to an IEP. 

When the pandemic first started, I had to continue working in the office because I’m considered an essential worker. Staying home to help Yael with his schoolwork wasn’t an option. I decided to send him to Puerto Rico to be with his grandparents so they could help him instead. That was very challenging for him and for my mom. 

Yael thought that because he was at the computer, he could get up and take as many breaks as he wanted to. He was used to having break time in the classroom. My mom was giving him breaks, but he wanted more. 

The teachers were giving him a lot of work and he wasn’t completing it on time. There was very little interaction, and the teachers would only see the students about twice a week. Both Yael and my mom were getting frustrated. 

This time around, things are a bit different. I’m working from home now and helping Yael with schoolwork. The school has given Yael books and even a laptop. There’s an app for him to use to look up assignments and the materials he’ll need to complete them. There’s even an app that I can use to speak with his teacher. 

But his IEP isn’t being followed, and I’m concerned. Yael is missing out on the extra time he needs to complete tests and quizzes. He’s also not having his one-on-one time with his special education teacher yet. 

Every day I sit with Yael to help him focus, and we work together. It’s challenging, but I know that if I send him to his room to work, he’ll get distracted. 

His teachers have not yet followed up about their plans to follow his IEP. I know they’re trying to adapt and figure out how to support Yael remotely, but this has been very hard to manage. So for now, we’re doing the best that we can.

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