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The School Closed Suddenly. I Need Help!
by Diane Willcutts, Education Advocate      

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"My children's school is closed. Can you recommend resources so I can help my children learn at home?"

young boy and mom outside

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, most states and cities have closed public school systems for weeks. Some states report that they are ending the school year early. School closings have created significant problems for parents of children with disabilities.

School districts are struggling to provide minimal educational services to students. Pete and Pam have been in a learning mode since the crisis began. On April 28 2020, Pete and Pam attended two excellent webinars by the Education Writers Association. The first was Remote Learning 101 in the Time of COVID-19, with Benjamin Herold (Education Week), Robin Lake (Center on Reinventing Public Education), moderated by Emily Richmond (Education Writers Association). Most school districts have not been able to provide a instruction based on a curriculum. Five percent were providing curriculum, instruction and progress monitoring. We recommend that readers take a bit of time to view this webinar (free to all).

The second was What the Khan Academy's Founder Wants You to Know About Distance Learning. Sal Khan shared his insights on education during the coronavirus pandemic and the future of learning. We've been fans of Sal Ohan and the Khan Academy since Sal began recording lessons in his closet so we were interested in his insights.

A few takeaways: COVID-19 will continue to disrupt our lives for the forseeable future. Most school districts are not prepared to provide instruction, a coherent curriculum, and progress monitoring. We encourage readers to invest time to prepare themselves for the changes we face in educating our children and how to make the most of our time and energy.

Assistance for families is variable and is likely to change as school closures continue. Some districts are providing online practice sessions so children "maintain skills."

Online educational solutions present problems for most children with disabilities. How can a school provide related services like speech language therapy, physical therapy or occupational therapy online?

Other families do not have reliable internet service so online education is inaccessible to their children. Your state and school district may be using this initial two-week period to figure out what kind of instruction they might offer if school closures go on beyond two weeks.

I live in Connecticut. Our Governor said that there will be a free online education module available to all students. He provided no details about when this will happen, what this will include, how this will be made accessible to children with disabilities, or how we will ensure that all students have internet access. More details will come as we learn more.

Resources to help children when they are at home

For those who do have internet access, many online education companies are providing free subscriptions due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Wrightslaw Note: If your child may be involved in online education or distance learning, take a few minutes to watch the new webinar about Online Education and Website Accessibility from the Office for Civil Rights. (7:08)

Two comprehensive lists are here:

Amy Langerman, an attorney and special education consultant, created a curated list of resources and ideas on her facebook page. Search "education ideas" on her page.

Apps and Websites to Build Literacy Skills - Top Picks from Common Sense Education. Browse these Top Picks to discover the best in educational apps and websites for teaching core literacy skills — phonics, fluency, vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, and writing. You'll also find recommendations for quality assistive technology to help kids who struggle with reading.
Wilson Language Services has attempted to provide guidance regarding continuing Wilson instruction during school closures.

Online field trips!

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) wrote an excellent article about ...

Making the Most of COVID-19 School Closures

"As our healthcare providers, scientists and officials focus their energy on social distancing recommendations and public health measures, it seems as if time spent at home with our families – whether self-imposed or mandated – is inevitable ... let’s take some time to discuss how we can create positive and productive environments in our own homes with our children while so many schools are closed."

  • Create Routines – Our children thrive on routine. Consider keeping their regular bedtime and morning routines, sitting down for lunch at the same time as they do at school, and writing out a daily schedule so that they know the plan for the day. Keeping these small things consistent can help our kids to feel regulated, calm and make a potentially scary situation feel much more predictable.

  • Request Work from Classroom Teachers – Most teachers will be sending home classwork to keep children engaged while they are out of the classroom. Make sure to request passwords to online learning sites used at school (raz-kids.com, IXL.com, etc.), have access to books at an appropriate reading level, ask about sites that provide printable worksheets, and, if still in school, bring home worksheets that could be completed during time off.

  • Schedule Recess/Playtime – While home is often seen as a place to relax and have fun, scheduling recess or play/downtime may help kids to feel like there is more of a routine. An average day at elementary schools fluctuates between time spent on learning, time to process and reflect, and time to have some fun. With an extended stay at home, it may help to touch on all of these activities. Scheduled recess allows for a child to predict when they will have a break to move their bodies and decompress.

  • Bolster Life Skills Education – As Kelley Challen, NESCA’s Director of Transition, so aptly explained in her blog post, the process of teaching our kids to become functional adults starts at birth. Consider spending this time teaching some skills in the home: have kids help with the process of doing a whole load of laundry from start to finish, work through a recipe for dinner together or clean surfaces around the house while explaining how to safely use different cleaning products. All of these experiences help a child to understand their future role as independent adults ...

    More ways to make the most of COVID-19 school closures.

    Kids Need Structure: Schedules Help

    Many experts suggest making a schedule for children to structure their day. Here is one example.

    Here is a link to the original (larger) schedule so you can save and print it: https://www.wrightslaw.com/images/inhouse/Sample_schedule_COVID_19.lg.jpg

    Confused? Overwhelmed? You are not alone.

    Fear of the unknown is the greatest human fear. The antidote to fear is knowledge and reliable information. As we learn more, our anxiety levels drop.

    I am also finding that this crisis is presenting us with opportunities to be extremely creative problem solvers! I look forward to learning more abut how our community faces these challenges. Stay safe!

    Meet Diane Willcutts

    Diane Willcutts works throughout Connecticut, helping families to navigate the special education, Section 504, and Birth to Three processes.

    Diane is a member of numerous organizations supporting children, including the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), CT Families for the Effective Treatment of Autism, the International Dyslexia Association, and the Council for Exceptional Children. She previously served as president of the Learning Disabilities Association of Connecticut and as a member of the board of directors for COPAA.

    Contact Info:

    Education Advocacy, LLC
    846 Farmington Avenue, Suite 10
    West Hartford, CT 06119

    Email: diane l at l educationadvocacyllc.com
    Phone: (860) 992-5874

    Revised: 00/00/00
    Created: 03/18/20

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