Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
The end of the 2019-2020 school year was a nightmare for kids, and hardest hit were special needs students. Now that fall 2020 is starting mainly at home, students are not likely to receive adequate special education services, including their “related services.”
Related services are things such as speech and language, occupational therapy, adaptive physical education, and other similar supportive services necessary to help a special needs student to be educated. These can be very difficult to deliver via online options and schools recently have cut down the provision of these services due to distance learning.
One possible solution for the delivery of these services is to have a school district pay for outside service providers to deliver in person services to the student. These could be delivered either at the provider’s business or in the student’s home (if the provider and family are willing).
Recently I have reached out to a local private speech and language provider and found they are open for business and can deliver right now to students at their office. This means that while school employees are not available for students to meet with, other equally qualified professionals are. The argument is that these outside services must be provided or students will regress.
Parents may want to research what services are available in their area for in person delivery and contact their school to attempt to get their child’s services delivered by these outside providers. If the school argues they are already delivering, that argument can be countered by asking if they are willing to deliver their services in person or not and pointing out the obvious difficulties and deficiencies present with online provision.
There is a huge difference between in person and video services when it comes to speech and language, occupational therapy, and adaptive physical education. I have had some clients give up doing video delivery altogether as they cannot get the student to attend and they also don’t have the equipment or training to deliver the services to their kids.
Additionally, parents can ask to be reimbursed for their mileage to and from these services. The mileage reimbursement must be listed in the IEP.
Other supports such as from an aide/paraprofessional, where a student may be accompanied by a trained assistant throughout their schoolday, may have vanished recently as well.
With aide services, if a student is entitled to specialized support, they should be provided that support to the fullest extent possible. The aide should attend their classes with them, at the very least, and perhaps assist them online for their whole school day (as they would have been at school had it been in session) and beyond, helping them with whatever they need. If minutes of service are noted in the IEP, those minutes should be delivered. There are other arguments that aides should help children directly, but those may be a bit more complex at this point.
We have to do something, and not just wait until this is all over to try to pick up the pieces. If outside providers are available to deliver, this may be an option for families to receive some of their services during this difficult time.
Research and an IEP meeting may be the first steps to take to move our kids forward, as the government does not seem they will solve this problem for us.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.