Expert Tips to Ease Remote Learning for Children With Disabilities

As the school year begins and we all are trying to navigate this difficult time, I would like to provide some guidance and support to those parents who have a child with a disability.  Here are some pointers: 

Home is now School: Create a space in your house where school/learning will take place. If at all possible, try not to use the kitchen table, because this table usually has a different function and the change can be confusing to children.

Look for a way to block off the space with a divider, a sheet hung up, a large cardboard, etc.  Label the area with the words and/or symbols including “work” or “school.” 

Create a routine/schedule that works for your household. Your school might be giving you a schedule as well. Communicate and collaborate with the school to figure out what works best for all parties. If you have to work, let them know. Be flexible and creative. 

The IEP. This is still a very important document that is required by law and needs to be updated annually. Please make sure that it is up to date and accurately reflects your child’s present levels of functioning. If it does not, you need to call an IEP meeting right away to get this updated. Request this in writing.

Also, if you have observed your child regressing in their learning and related behaviors, make sure this is stated within the IEP. Make note of what you could see before and what you see now. For example, if a previous IEP stated that your child could attend to a task for 11 minutes, and now your child can only attend for 2 minutes, then you want the IEP to capture previous as well as current information. This will be important for when school is back to brick-and-mortar. When it comes time to consider compensatory education, you will need these kinds of observations.

The data: Where does this come from? YOU and the staff. Your data is just as important. You are there with your child and, since March, you have been there with them supporting the instruction. Please make sure that you are sharing your observations and data via email to the school staff. You also want to see this included in the upcoming IEP document. 

Your data should now be documented within the IEP as part of the present levels of the IEP. The IEP should NOT change just because we are remote learning. What a child requires based on needs and law should remain the same and be documented in the IEP. A Remote Learning Plan will need to be added to the IEP, and it does not cancel out any IEP supports or services.

Remote Leaning Plans: If you do not have one yet, please reach out to your school and request one right away. This should be a detailed plan showing how the IEP will be implemented in the remote environment. There may need to be additional accommodations added, different ways to implement IEPs, additional training for parents, and more.

If your child’s IEP assumes certain kinds of equipment, but you do not have them at home, ask to get those items in the home. These kinds of equipment could include a visual schedule, a seating cushion, if-then board, a text-to-speech app, etc. The school is responsible for providing these items to you for use at home.  They may mail them, drop them off or have you pick them up. 

Documentation: Document everything. What was provided? What was your child able to access? How did your child respond, if they could even respond? What level of support did they need from you? Not only will this be used as data, it will also be important to use when considering compensatory education. 

Brick-and-mortar: Eventually, we will return to in-person school. And when it happens, we all need to be ready. Your child(ren) might need to be wearing a mask, not only in school but in the community.

Some students will always have a difficult time with this. Start preparing your child now. Start slow. Introduce the importance of wearing a mask. Model wearing a mask. Utilize visuals, social stories, and videos for this. Let me know if you need some of these resources. 

Compensatory Services: Your child might qualify for compensatory education to make up for any skill loss that has occurred during remote learning. If you believe your child has regressed, please email your child’s school to request an IEP meeting to consider compensatory education upon returning to the school building. You will hold the key to the data. Track and document all experiences, what was provided to your child, how they responded, etc. If you need support with this, please reach out. 

Please stay positive and collaborate with your child’s team. Do as much of your communication via email as possible, so that you have documentation. 

Stay healthy! 

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Mo Buti offers her decades of experience in educational advocacy and instructional expertise to people with autism and their families. After a long career as a special education administrator in Chicago Public Schools, Mo served as director of program development for Neumann Family Services, a leading agency that fosters choice and independence for people with disabilities while helping them integrate into the heart of their communities. You can learn more about Mo at

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