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Special Education Restart

LETTER TO FAMILIES

Dear Jeffco Families,

The needs of students with disabilities have been of the utmost importance as we plan for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. We, as a Special Education Leadership Team, have been working to ensure equity and access for the Jeffco Restart in the fall of 2020. This also includes considerations for all IEP services as we move into a learning environment involving cohorts and new protocols.

In order to communicate timely information with Jeffco families and community about special education-specific information, the special education leadership team is putting some new layers of support in place this year.

A new support line (303-982-6682) for families to call with Special Education COVID-19 related questions. 
Virtual community forums throughout the year in order to share information with the community in a timely manner.
An updated Special Education website with frequently asked questions, resources, and information for families.

We recognize that this Restart to the school year will be unique and we are planning with our students with disabilities in mind.  There are multiple ways to find information for 20-21.  Please explore the website and the updated frequently asked questions section. You can also join us for a virtual community forum to learn, share, and connect! 

As we stated in March, we are all a team and wanting what is best for our students with disabilities. We will continue to review and respond to comments and questions submitted from the community.

Take care of yourselves and each other, and thank you again for your collaboration and all you do.

Respectfully,

Jeffco Special Education Team

During the spring, Jeffco special education teachers and related service providers worked diligently and thoughtfully to support students with special education needs. Jeffco’s Restart plan gives families the option of having students return to in-person learning opportunities or to continue to engage in remote learning. We will look forward to welcoming your student if you choose to return to school. If you choose to have your child continue with remote learning, an IEP meeting will be held to discuss the family’s choice and consider whether an evaluation is necessary. At the meeting, the team will discuss whether remote learning is appropriate to meet the needs of the student based upon their unique circumstances and response to remote learning during the spring of 2020. The student’s IEP will be updated to reflect the plan for the 2020-21 school year. 

Special Education & In-Person Learning

CONSIDERATIONS FOR IN-PERSON LEARNING

Many staff, parents and students are excited about the opportunity to return to in-person learning. Jeffco’s Restart Plan outlines many of the anticipated conditions that will be necessary for this to be successful. Page 5 of the Restart plan describes “person, place, space, and time” . This is the basic assumption we will using as guidance for the 20-21 school year.

The health and safety of students, staff, and the community are our first priority. The safety, health, and hygiene protocols outlined throughout the Restart Plan align with the principles: Place, Space, People, and Time developed in collaboration with public health experts. 

Place - Maximize airflow in places where people are gathering.
Space - Utilize 6 feet of social-distancing to the extent possible.
People - Maintain consistent cohort groupings of individuals and limit the amount and size of gatherings to the extent possible.
Time - Limit the duration of interaction between individuals outside of cohort groupings.

Each school will be developing plans to address these assumptions. It will be important to understand the plan for your student’s school. Special education services will be provided in accordance with school plans.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The Restart Plan talked about "individual schedules" being created for students with disabilities. When will I know more about my student's schedule? And, do I have an opportunity to give input on the schedule?

Once teachers and providers return in August, they will be setting individual student schedules in alignment with the school cohorts.  You can expect to hear from your case manager of a team member prior to August 24th.  Staff will collaborate with families prior to finalizing plans.

School administrators will develop a plan specific to their buildings to address pick up/drop off, entry, symptom screening, transitions, student schedules, etc. before students arrive in August. Individual schools will communicate their plans to staff and school community so  you will know what to expect.

My student is anxious about returning to school, can I go to the classroom to help?

Unfortunately, family members and visitors will not be permitted in school facilities. Communicate with your child's teachers to discuss a plan to ease your child's return to school. Social stories may be useful to help your student prepare to return to schools. We have included stories to explain COVID-19, social distancing, wearing masks, temperature checks and hand-washing.

How can I prepare my student for the return to school?

A variety of Social stories are available here to help discuss the return to school and changes for the school year.  These include social distancing, wearing masks, temperature checks and hand-washing. 

How will specialized transportation look for my student who qualifies?

Specialized transportation will be provided. Students will be expected to enter the bus and may have their temperature taken by the bus driver or bus aide prior to being seated. If your child has a temperature, you will be asked to take him or her home. Students will proceed to the empty seat closest to the back of the bus so that students do not have to pass others on the way to a seat. Only one student will be seated on a bench seat. Students will be expected to wear a mask while on the bus. A social story will be posted soon to help you prepare your student for new procedures.

Wearing a face mask is not appropriate for my student due to health conditions. My student has not tolerated wearing a face covering, but I want them to be in school. What can we do?

Face coverings for students and staff will be required when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained. That being said, we realize that may not be an appropriate option for some students.  Families and school teams will work together to find an alternative option to maintain the health and safety of all individuals in the school settings.

Special Education & Remote Learning

remote learning iep services

Step 1:  Remote Services

If a family chooses remote learning, an IEP meeting will be held to discuss the family’s choice and consider whether an evaluation is necessary. At the meeting, the team will discuss whether remote learning is appropriate to meet the needs of the student based upon their unique circumstances and response to remote learning during the spring of 2020. 

The IEP team may determine that remote learning will not provide an appropriate education for your student. In this case, we will discuss specific accommodations and develop a plan for providing services.

If the IEP team determines that remote learning will provide an appropriate education, the student’s IEP will be updated to reflect the plan for the 2020-21 school year. 

Step 2:  Develop a Plan


Based on the new IEP, families engage in a conversation with your student’s teachers and special education service providers  to discuss specific plans for students to access the general education curriculum and allow students to make progress on the IEP goals. A schedule will be developed, specifying meeting times and strategies your child will engage for remote learning.

Step 3:  Implement the Plan


Together with your child if possible, make a schedule that reflects the services and meeting times.  Set aside a “school space” somewhere where your student can work with few distractions.  Provide the learning materials necessary that will make it feel more like school.   To the extent reasonable, ask your student to follow the schedule independently.  Reminders such as “When’s your next speech therapy session?” or, “When is that assignment due to your teacher?” can be helpful to keep your child engaged in the day.  (Sample schedule below.)

Step 4:  Make Adjustments


Please continue to stay in communication with the service providers at the school to let them know how your student is doing.  Make any adjustments to the plan and services to meet the student’s needs.  The delivery of some types of services remotely may require adult support in the home, so consider your availability when designing the remote services schedule.  If something isn’t working, call your child’s special education provider to discuss possible solutions.

frequently asked questions

What is a visual schedule and how does it work?

A visual schedule is a format that allows your child to see what activities are planned for the day and when they are happening.  There are several different types of visual schedules to consider when thinking about your child.  Does your child need only two items on the schedule at one time?  Can they handle seeing the whole day planned out?  Do they need pictures or words to represent the activity?

Create your own visual schedule here!

visual schedule

Help! I am trying to work or take care of my children, and I don’t have time to assist my child with these services.

We have found that some families struggle to manage the delivery of remote services due to a variety of factors.  We would like to partner with you to problem-solve the situation.  Remember that “remote” doesn’t always mean “online.”  Some students are not independent with technology and are not engaged by online instruction/activities.  Those students may need access to their more preferred hands-on activities and lessons.  Staff can assemble those materials and ensure you get them.

I’ve received so many calls and emails from teachers and staff, I cannot manage it all. How can I get organized?

In our efforts to ensure students have received remote instructional activities, we realize we may have overwhelmed some families.  Just tell us.  Ask your child’s case manager to help you prioritize the classes and services.  We can help you set up a daily or weekly schedule to help you organize a busy and unfamiliar day.

Here’s a sample schedule:  

1. Make a simple calendar - big piece of paper or even a wall with some masking tape will do - don’t make a line for every minute of the day unless your child needs that structure.  They can have some down time. 

2. Make a sticky note with each activity your child has been asked to do:  
a) Reading on Tues/Thurs 9:00 -9:30
b) Math on Wed/Fri  9:00 - 9:30
c) Mr. Calm (Mental Health) Tues/Thurs - 11:00 - 11:30 
d) Speech Wed 1:00 - 1:30 
e) Make a Lunch/Recess sticky note for every day

3. Put the sticky notes in the right order on each day -If the time changes - move the sticky

 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
 Ms. Lisa check-in 8:30  Activity bins (see below) 8:00 Ms. Lisa check-in 8:30  Art Activity 8:30-9:00   Ms. Lisa check-in 8:30
 Walk the dog 10:00  Reading Ms. Smith 9:00-9:30 (gen ed class)  Math Ms. Smith 9:00-9:30 (gen ed class)  Reading Ms. Smith 9:00-9:30 (gen ed class)  Math Ms. Smith 9:00-9:30 (gen ed class)
 Read a book 11:00-11:30  Group Time with Mr. Calm 11:00-11:30 (Mental Health provider)  Speech Time with Ms. Talker 1:00-1:30 (Speech Provider)  Group Time with Mr. Calm 11:00-11:30  Spelling with Ms. Nice (para support)
 Lunch/Recess 11:30-12:30  Lunch/Recess 11:30-12:30  Lunch/Recess 11:30-12:30  Lunch/Recess 11:30-12:30  Lunch/Recess 11:30-12:30
 Afternoon off!  Reading Group Ms. Smart (Special ed. Teacher intervention time)  Science 1:00-1:30  Tell/Draw/Write a story for 30 minutes Read a book 12:30-1:00 

 

sped bins


Where do I get help with the technology my student requires for these lessons?

Many of us are learning new skills every day!  Jeffco has a website that offers Technical Resources and that answers a lot of these questions.  Your team can also assist you.

My child has a hard time paying attention for extended time periods. What is something I can do to help?

A visual timer can be useful when attempting to increase time-on-task.  This allows your child to see what the expectations are for time working.  You can also use first/then language where the “first” is what you are currently asking them to do and the “then” is a reinforcing and preferred activity. Other strategies include using sensory tools or fidgets during learning times. We can also implement using a checklist and using scheduled breaks. 

How do I use a reinforcement system to help reduce problem behaviors (and/or increase desired behaviors) and what are some examples?

A reinforcement system helps us increase the desired behaviors.  It will help your student learn that the good behavior gets them something they want, while the bad behaviors do not.  Some examples are a token board, points sheet, sticker chart, first/then, and earning money for chores.

My student is really anxious and/or sad about these changes. Where can I find help for this?

This is really to be expected during these confusing times.  Your child has little to no access to familiar friends, teachers and school activities.  You might be grieving too, because your day and your life has been disrupted.  Jeffco has a website with a lot of Mental Health Supports.  You can also reach out to your team for support. 

How do I help my child learn to take a break when they need it?

  1. If you begin noticing patterns in your child’s challenging behaviors when they are starting to show signs of frustration or anger, you can begin by pointing them out to your child. Ex: “I notice you are stomping your feet, are you starting to feel frustrated?” By modeling the language and identifying telling signs of frustration, your child will also begin to notice the signals that indicate frustration in themselves, leading (eventually) to an increase in their ability to self-monitor. 
  2. Once they have identified their frustrations, they can take a specific amount of time (use a timer) to practice some calming strategies (deep breaths, stretches, ect.) and return to the task. Please remember, do not use a break as reward time or free play, they should engage in an already identified break time activity and then return to the work. 
  3. Some suggested break time activities: deep breaths, mindfulness activities, stretching, walking, movement breaks

How do I help my child calm down when they are upset about school work?

  1. Use very simple and direct language. Too many words can escalate someone even further when they are upset. Identify the emotion, prompt communication, and provide choices. For example, “You look frustrated. Do you need a drink or a walk?” Remind them “what they are working for.” This is great if you have a reinforcement system in place. 
  2. If your child is able to debrief at a later moment, first ensure that they have had ample time to recover. Then try to discover why they were upset and create a plan to avoid becoming upset in the future. 

How do I help my child when they are refusing to work?

Try to identify what pieces of the work are the most challenging or frustrating. Is it the amount of work, the level of difficulty or the amount of time? There are other potential challenges as well, but once you have identified the specific area that is most frustrating, you can address or modify that part of the work.

Always validate the frustration, ex: “I can see you are frustrated with how much time you are having to spend doing ____. Would it help if we did 5 more minutes, then took a break?”

You can also offer choices of which work to complete. For example, “Would you like to do math or reading?”

You also can refer to a reinforcement system if you have one in place.

*See information on reinforcement systems listed above*

What is behavior momentum and how do I use it?

Behavioral momentum is a behavioral strategy that entails making requests that are easy for the child before making requests that are more challenging or difficult. For example, if your child is having a difficult time engaging in spelling activities, you may start off “spelling time” with a word puzzle or game, then work on handwriting or tracing and then move into spelling.

How do I help motivate my child?

Use a reinforcement system. Remember to update their “reinforcers” as their preferences may change frequently! Use goal setting with your child as a part of the process. Ex: “What would you like to accomplish today?” Try to use their preferences, words and voice in making goals and behavior contracts. 

Sample Preference Assessment

RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES

NEW! Special Education Community Support Line

Have a special education question? The majority of information can be found with the staff at your school site, but if you have additional questions, please use our support line to help assist you with information about the following:

  • 2020 - 2021 School Restart Plan
  • Special Education and Related Services Available 
  • Special Education Regulations & Procedural Safeguards
  • Transferring to Jeffco
  • Resources 
  • School-Related Concerns
     

303-982-6682

(Supporting Individuals With Autism During Uncertain Times includes strong guidance and printable visuals and resource links to support students with autism, but will also support ALL learners.)

This online module from the Vanderbilt University IRIS Center provides parents with tips and strategies for supporting children during remote learning.

  • Social Stories includes a variety of social stories specific to COVID. We have included stories to explain COVID-19, social distancing, wearing masks, temperature checks and hand-washing. 
  • The Jeffco Dyslexia Advisory Committee (made up of families, community members and district staff) compiled a list of resources that have been helpful to families of students with dyslexia.  This is a list of possible resources, and are not necessarily endorsed by Jeffco Schools. You can access the list here.

CONTACTS

We encourage families to reach out to their case managers and schools with questions and concerns.  If more support is needed, please refer to the contacts below.

Special Education Community Support Line    303-982-6682

Special Education Assistant Director listed by School

 Dr. Dawn Loge Greer Director 303-982-2991
 Liza Meier Director 303-982-9135
 Matt Palaoro Director 303-982-3500
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