Virtual Learning For Special Education


The uproar about providing Special Education Services is REAL. Every school district is handling how education will be implemented differently. When it comes to students with significant disabilities (or any special ed student), it almost seems like there is no answer that will provide our students with what they really need. Many of our students have trouble accessing online instruction. IEPs are being done to change how services are to be provided to accommodate virtual learning. Teachers are scrambling to somehow find a way to provide their students with the instruction and support their students truly need.

Teachers are trying. They are doing what they can to give students what they need with the limited online resources they have. We all know that many students in Special Education need HANDS ON, IN PERSON instruction. In a time where we can’t provide that as educators, we have to try the next best thing to do our job, and do it well. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for your virtual classroom this year…

STRATEGIES and IDEAS to implement virtual learning:

  • Provide a clear schedule of what each day will look like, follow a routine. We know how much our students thrive in structured environments.
  • Give parents a list of any login/passwords (specific to their student) may need to access class materials or activities. If they have a list of all sites, logins, and passwords in one place, it will be easier for them to access materials.
  • Record your meetings/classes so that parents can re-watch with students if necessary.
  • You may want to think about teaching parents certain strategies/techniques you use as a teacher so they can provide support from home. Model what you want them to do (using token boards, wait time, etc.).

Adapting your classroom for online education:

  • Again, stick to some sort of schedule. It will make it easier on you, your students, and their families.
  • Go over your expectations as a teacher and what you expect from your students this year in your virtual classroom.
  • Do a mini lesson on your online classroom (how to raise your hand, mute yourself, type comments etc.)
  • Take advantage of online websites and resources that offer online lesson plans and activities. Encourage your school/admin to invest in sites for your teachers. It’s worth it, especially knowing this year will look different and you’ll need the resources you can get.
  • If there are activities you need parents to provide supplies for, give them a heads up so they have time to get what is needed.
  • Try to find ways for students to move around their environment (to go get an item etc.).
  • WAIT TIME. Don’t forget how much some students need longer wait time, having class online- students may need extra.
  • Continue to use as many visuals as possible. Perhaps teaching parents how to use token boards so students can be reinforced at home during class. Or you can use an online token board if appropriate.

Providing support for individual needs:

  • One of the hardest things to do is provide individualized instruction to students who need it, how are we supposed to find the time? If you can, do small group instruction and group learners by level. Even if you meet once a week with each group, it will help to provide each student with what they need on a more individualized basis.
  • If parents are open to it and you are able to find individualized activities, you can always send them home for parents to work on with their child (or at least oversee). This way, students get material that is specifically meeting their needs.

Barriers to overcome:

  • Getting on the same page with parents/families. It is important that you are clear and inform parents how your classroom will look this school year. Families will need to understand and learn the importance of routines, expectations, consistency, goals & objectives for learning.
  • Try to provide parents with a picture of how each day will look. If you are offering extra 1:1 instruction or small group instruction at any point, make sure parents have a schedule to follow to avoid any issues.
  • Some families may not primarily speak English or have limited technology skills. Do what you can to help and support, but also understand you can only do so much being at a distance.

ENCOURAGE parents to:

  • Provide a learning environment where their child can focus, with minimal distractions.
  • Keep students on a daily routine, emphasize structure and how important it is to student success.
  • Work with their child to make sure they have access to the class via laptop, tablet etc.
  • Parents may need to be open to learning certain techniques and strategies to help their child succeed in this new, online environment. Be supportive and encouraging.
  • Be patient. It’s a learning process for everyone with a steep learning curve.
  • Ask questions. If they are confused or need support, encourage them to contact you.

Be flexible. Be patient. Be supportive. We’ve never been here before and there’s a steep learning curve so we’ll figure it out as we go!

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