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How Parents Can Overcome Roadblocks to Compensatory Education
by Pam & Pete Wright

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"My son Noah is seven. He has severe autism. After school closed, Noah's vocabulary dropped from 50 words to 25 words. He stopped using sentences. I'm his mom. If Noah is to learn and make progress, he needs to work with trained professionals."

A few weeks ago, Noah's school district offered his parents a choice between virtual and in-person learning. Noah's parents picked in-person learning and began counting the days until school started.

Over the next few weeks, COVID-19 cases increased, declined, leveled out, then increased again. Two days ago, Noah's school district announced that they will only offer virtual learning when school reopens.

concerned woman

If you are like millions of parents who counted on your child's school opening for in-school learning this fall, you may be facing a tough new reality: Your children cannot return to school with their friends and teachers this fall. No one knows when schools will physically reopen. Yes, we feel your pain.

The logistics about how to make schools, teachers, and students safe at school are not clear. The sources of funding for equipment, training, supplies, PPE, etc. are unknown. No one knows how many teachers will return when schools reopen.

But that's not all. Teachers need intensive training in how to implement new safety protocols and how to make virtual instruction more effective.

When people feel helpless, they want to DO SOMETHING! The need to DO SOMETHING NOW can take you down the path to trouble.

We compiled a short list of things you can do to counter those hopeless feelings.

Learn about Your School's Responsibilities

In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Education published guidance about the COVID-19 pandemic for states and school districts.

The guidance includes a statement that got the attention of many people.

"Where ... there has been an inevitable delay in providing services or even making decisions about how to provide services, IEP teams must make an individualized determination about whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when schools resume normal operations."

Given the confusion and uncertainty that characterize this school year, you should expect your child's IEP team to balk at providing your child with an appropriate amount of compensatory education that addresses your child's unique needs.

What can you do to increase the odds that your child will receive appropriate compensatory education services?

Learn about Compensatory Education

In a nutshell, compensatory education ("comp ed") refers to educational services provided by the school to make up for the knowledge and skills children with disabilities lost when the school was unable to provide the services required by the child's IEP.

The child's IEP team, which includes the parent, determines if a child will receive compensatory education and what each child's comp ed program will include.

Read Evolution of Compensatory Education Caselaw

What else can I do?

Protect Your Child's Interests: Create a Paper Trail

Read the last IEP. During the months school was closed, your child missed the instructional time laid out in the last IEP. If the IEP included related services like Speech, PT, OT, or counseling, your child missed those services too.

Take a look at the goals in the IEP. What are your thoughts? Did your child accomplish any of those goals? Were you optimistic about your child's progress before school closed? What are your thoughts now? Write your thoughts down - if you don't write them down, you are likely to forget your first impressions.

We encouraged parents to keep a log of contacts with the school, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The log should contain information about your contacts with the school and services provided or not provided.

Read Good Documentation is the Key to Success at IEP Meetings

Your child is likely to need compensatory education to make up for the education lost when schools were closed. Your goal at the next IEP meeting(s) is to obtain compensatory educational services, including special education and related services that meet your child's needs.

Decisions about compensatory education need to be based on data. A successful outcome at the next IEP meeting may depend on the documentation and data you can make available to the IEP team.

Read Write Things Down as They Happen.

What else can I do?

Get an Evaluation by an Independent Evaluator

To support a request for comp ed, you need data about where your child was functioning when school closed, where your child is functioning now, and an analysis of the goals in the last IEP and what goals were accomplished.

To make your case, get a comprehensive evaluation of your child by an independent evaluator in the private sector. This evaluation should identify your child's present levels, your child's needs, and a plan to meet those needs. This evaluation will provide a roadmap for your child's education going forward.

Choose an evaluator who has expertise in your child's disability, is independent of the school district, and is willing to work with the school staff. (For more information about evaluations, read Chapter 8, Evaluations and Your Child's Disability in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.)

Assuming your evaluator can work with your child's IEP team, the evaluator will use test data to describe your child's functioning and the gap between where your child is and where your child should be. The evaluator will have recommendations about the compensatory educational services your child needs to bring him up to the level if the pandemic hadn't forced schools to close.

It's possible that the evaluator will discover that your child has other needs and problems.

Read Working with Independent Evaluators.

COVID-19 and Special Education

This article is one in a series about special education and COVID-19. Stay tuned for more about compensatory education, progress, IEP meetings, and related subjects. Other articles about COVID-19 and special education include:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Closed My Child's School: Now What?

The School Closed Suddenly and I Need Help!

Contingency Learning Plans: What? Why? How to Respond

A Parent Wants to Delay Her Child's IEP Until Fall: Will the School Be in Compliance if We Grant her Request?

Schools Can Use Teletherapy to Provide Therapy and Services

Understanding Your Child's Test Scores

Sample Letter to Document a Problem or Request an IEP Meeting

Revised: 00/00/00
Created: 07/23/20


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