Can in-person teaching be an IEP accommodation during the pandemic?

By Bob Cunningham, EdM

Question:

My 11-year-old has an IEP for ADHD and dyslexia. Because of the coronavirus, our school district is offering virtual instruction. Learning from home is very hard for my child. Can I get the school to add in-person teaching to our IEP?

Answer:

The coronavirus pandemic is challenging for everyone, and schools are struggling to figure out what to do for kids, families, and teachers. It’s good that you’re thinking through options to meet your child’s needs.

Your first step is finding out if your school district offers in-person schooling to any students. Check your school district’s website for information. If information isn’t posted, call the school to ask.

Some schools are only doing virtual instruction because they believe in-person teaching is too dangerous. Others may move to only doing virtual instruction during the year. In these cases, it’s probably not possible to use your child’s IEP to get in-person schooling. You’ll have to make the most out of virtual schooling, even as you continue to advocate for in-person schooling. (Check out tips to help your child learn at home.)

Other schools have the option for some form of in-person schooling. They may do this for all students or just for some, and it may be full-time or part-time. If in-person instruction is an option, you can use the IEP process to make sure your child can attend.

As with any IEP decision, adding in-person teaching is a team decision. You'll have to make a case for why your child needs in-person schooling. Be specific. For example, you could point to evidence from recent virtual experiences, like limited engagement in class, lack of work completion, poor attendance, or loss of skills in reading or other areas.

Make your case stronger by keeping track of how your child has been progressing (or not) toward IEP goals during distance learning. This IEP goal tracker can help you.

IEP Goal TrackerPDF

Your district may also consider your family’s circumstances. If all the adults in your family are working and you need childcare, that’s something to share with the team. But the final decision will come down to your child’s individual learning needs.

I put together some sample language to guide you when you ask for in-person teaching. You can adjust it for your child and situation:

My child’s dyslexia and ADHD directly impact my child’s reading skills and ability to remain focused on virtual lessons. You can see this impact on performance on reading tasks during virtual learning, and in my child’s low attendance and participation during virtual schooling. Therefore, it’s important for my child to have in-person teaching to the maximum extent possible.

Framing your child’s needs like this should help you get collaboration from the IEP team. If you’re having trouble, look for allies among school staff to back up what you’re saying.

Keep in mind that school will look different this year for kids with IEPs, whether you get in-person teaching or not. It’s important to use the IEP process to prioritize what’s most important for your child. Do academics matter most? Or is it your child’s need for social interaction?

Ask the IEP team to list priorities for in-person schooling and what adjustments are needed when only virtual school is possible. Agreeing on those things now will make the year smoother for both you and the teachers. 

I hope this information is helpful during this difficult time. Good luck as you work to get the support your child needs.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.