Students With Disabilities Online Exemption: Inclusive Education and In-Home Supports
As you have likely heard, on May 4th the Alberta government introduced new public health measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.
K-12 students throughout the province will all shift to at-home learning effective May 7th and will return to class May 25th. However, there is an exception for students with disabilities (see the section titled “What’s New” and expand where it says “All K to 12 schools will transition to online learning from May 7-25”) which reads as follows:
“Students with disabilities who require specialized supports and students in outreach programs may continue to attend in-person class and receive supports and services at school. Parents should work with their teacher and school principal on appropriate arrangements.”
For students with disabilities who were receiving an inclusive education, Inclusion Alberta recommends you consider the following in discussing, with your child’s teacher and/or principal, the supports they need to be successfully learning at-home.
Here are some examples of what you can consider seeking (this is not an exhaustive list):
- adapted lesson plans for the subjects/topics currently being taught
- regular reports and/or feedback on how your child has done on completing assignments, homework, quizzes, projects, etc.
- during online classes for your child to be called upon to respond, with support and accommodation for however your child best communicates, to teacher inquiries
- for your child to be involved in group projects with appropriate modifications and opportunities to report back to classmates
- individual online assistance and support from teachers/educational aides
- needed adaptive or technological aides to participate in online learning (e.g., devices that enable children with mobility challenges to interface with a computer or tablet; equipment that was available and needed for in class learning and participation when at school to be provided at home during the restrictions, etc.)
We encourage parents to share what they have been able to arrange with their child’s teacher and principals openly on social media or by dropping us a line so as to provide other parents with ideas. And if you cannot obtain what you believe ought to be provided, then please consider contacting Inclusion Alberta to see if we might be of assistance.
A more challenging consideration for parents who want their child to have a fully inclusive education and perhaps have even fought hard to obtain inclusion, is the fact there is an exception that allows for students with disabilities to attend school. As their non-disabled classmates will not be present, your son or daughter with disabilities may find it odd or difficult to learn in a classroom by themselves. This may be more problematic than the challenges inherent in online learning.
There is also the risk that a school, however well-intentioned, may try to segregate and congregate a previously included student with other students with disabilities who are continuing to attend school in person. Parents can safeguard against this by both refusing to have their child segregated and to only have their child attend for the equivalent of what would typically be a tutoring experience – that is, personal and individual support from a teacher or aide to work on specific subjects or learning objective.
In addition to schools providing needed supports during the restriction, you might need a support person at home during school hours. Parent still have to find their own in-home assistance. As before, if you have an FSCD agreement you should have the flexibility to use your existing funding for this support during school hours. As of yet, FSCD has not committed to any emergency funding to enable families to hire needed in-home support for their child’s online learning, or for a parent who has to continue to work outside the home. Inclusion Alberta continues to advocate for this, but it is very unlikely the government will make this commitment.
We realize not every family who is committed to an inclusive education can readily have their child at home and maintain their employment during the next two plus weeks. If you find you have no other choice but to have your child at school and the only option the school will agree to is a placement in special education classroom we recommend contacting Inclusion Alberta to see if we can arrange an alternative option for you. At the very least we advise letting the principal know via an email that you are only agreeing to this placement during the two-week restrictions, doing so under duress, and that your child is to return to the regular classroom as soon as a return to school for all students is permitted.
Our Inclusive Education Consultants have created the following resources that families and educators may find valuable:
- Slides from a May 12, 2020 presentation titled, “Learning at Home with Inclusion Alberta”. Presentation available here.
- A list of resources which may be of interest and help for parents at home with K-12 students. This PDF is viewable online or can be downloaded.
- Getting Ready for School Together (1)
- COVID Toolkit for Teachers
- Covid 19 Parent Toolkit
- Questions for Schools
As more information becomes available, we will share what we learn.
Stay safe and in touch.
CEO, Inclusion Alberta