Navigating Online Learning with an IEP

The students of Ontario are about to enter into another period of online learning. This time, I think we all have a sense of foreboding as we are finding ourselves questioning if the scheduled return to in-class learning will actually take place as planned. Many parents/caregivers are looking ahead to the coming weeks and wondering how they will juggle working from home, having to place their child(ren) in care while they work, addressing their Childs learning at the end of a work day, or juggling the needs of multiple children and their own unique demands on time and resources. If you are a parent/caregiver of a Child with an Individualised Education Plan (IEP), you may be facing additional challenges and be feeling particularly concerned about what lay ahead for your learner. The reality is, Covid-19 has taxed most households and left us all wishing we could see some kind of a return to normal. The vaccines arrival in Canada gives us hope for some positive change with the arrival of warmer weather, until then,it is best to tackle this transition to on-line learning with a solid plan for our learners with individualised needs. I have attached a link to a wonderful webinar from the organisation Strong Minds, Strong Kids. The webinar is fittingly titled " Guilt, grief, and grace, oh my:Parenting during a Pandemic". Taking the time to honour the journey we are all on as we move through the challenges and changes that Covid-19 has brought to our lives as parents/caregivers, may help to frame your expectations of yourself as you support your learner. Taking some time to acknowledge your miles walked through this strange time in history is a gift you are worthy of!

Some next steps that are important after preparing yourself mentally for what lay ahead is to create a plan for your learner, based on what you already know would be in place at school. The beauty of this,is the plan already exists! If you pull out your Childs IEP you will find an Accommodations List. This list is separated into three categories; Instructional Accommodations, Environmental Accommodations, and Assessment Accommodations. The good news here is this transition to on-line learning will include a synchronous portion with your Childs teacher leading the lesson and answering questions. This approach should help cut down on the level of intervention/support that Children will need from their parents to complete their assignments. The most relevant accommodations to pay attention to for at home learning, will be the environmental accommodations and instructional accommodations. Environmental accommodations may include recommendations such as: preferential seating, use of noise cancelling headphones, limited visual distractions within the learning environment,etc. Making an effort to mimic these accommodations within your Childs at home learning environment may help your learner to settle into work periods more easily. Providing your Child with a work area that is located close to a caregiver, with limited distractions is ideal, although may be a challenge. Implementing a compromised version is helpful; helping your learner while a younger sibling naps, when your morning conference call ends, or after the commotion of the household has settled, are a few tips that may bring some peace and productivity for all involved. Instructional accommodations may include recommendations such as: clarification of oral/written instructions, chunking information/instructions, use of technology to complete written tasks/ assigned reading, scribing, movement breaks, extra processing time, visual/auditory cues,etc. If you are unsure of "what their accommodation translates into functionally", your Child may be able to give you an example of what their teacher usually does, or you could send a quick email asking their teacher for support/tips that they know have worked for your Child. Remember, you are not alone and it is OK to be honest with yourself, your Child, and your Childs Teacher if you need more support. They will understand!

Keep in mind that everyone's expectations during these challenging, and unusual times will need to be realistic. If you are working while your Child(ren) are learning, caring for other dependants, sharing resources, managing unreliable internet services, or any other combination of unique challenges, it is reasonable to accept that your Child may not be able to perform to their full potential. Pandemic parenting is not a science, or even an art, it is a series of efforts made in good faith and with as much energy and attention that can be mustered within the moment. Similarly, being a student through a global pandemic,while managing learning differences does not come with a handbook, or even adequate accommodations at times. You and your learner will need grace, love, and above all understanding. A successful school year this year will be measured in the moments you share in partnership with your Child as you both take on this unusual way of learning. Sending you all wishes for a successful year ahead!

Don't forget, the staff at KW Special Education Services are here to support you and your family, please head over to  our "Book Online" tab if your learner would benefit from additional supports!       

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I have worked in support of Children with differing abilities for 15 years. My heart called me to serve Children who needed people in their corner to help them access the world around them, be it thei