Overwhelmed parents may request related services be offered to their child with a disability in their home as part- or full-time remote learning continues. They may fear that their child is falling behind and that they don’t have the skills or time to support his learning.
Consider the parents’ request and discuss why in-home services may or may not be necessary or possible. If the school team dismisses the request out of hand because of the pandemic, you may deny the parents’ meaningful participation.
“We can’t just out-of-the-box say we don’t do that,” says Deborah U. Ettinger, a school attorney at Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo in San Rafael, Calif. “If we’re literally prohibited, that’s one thing. We want to protect not just staff, but families, too. But if there’s some gray area there, we have to have the conversation.”
Go over these issues with parents who request in-home services for their child with a disability:
- FAPE. Review data with the student’s parents to determine if the child needs in-home services to receive FAPE while in-school learning is suspended. For example, parents may request a one-to-one aide to come into their home to address the student’s behavioral issues. Or they may request the aide because they don’t have time to address their child’s behavior during the day themselves. If the student did not have an aide before the pandemic and the data doesn’t show that his behavior is impeding his learning remotely, the IEP team may decide he doesn’t require the aide at home, says Ettinger. But if the student is unable to focus on his learning, the IEP team may have to have a discussion about how to furnish the services of an aide.
- Health, safety, and labor constraints. You may share with parents your inability to provide in-person services to their child at home because of state and local public health orders and labor constraints, Ettinger says. “Districts can make decisions whether they will provide in-home services, but they have to fall in line with public health orders and labor and employment concerns.” Discuss with parents what may serve as an alternative to in-home services during this time. “An aide or behavioral consultant may be able to offer some behavioral services virtually,” she says.
- Logistical issues. If there are no governmental limitations on having a staff member provide services in the student’s home, and a staff member is available and willing, talk with parents about how you could make this work without putting the staff member or family at risk. “Think creatively,”Ettinger says. “Weather permitting, you could [offer services] outside.” If services are inside, you may want to limit how many adults are in the room during the session and maintain social distancing to protect everyone, Ettinger adds. Also require everyone to wear a mask. And ensure families understand that the staff member would not be providing services at their home for six hours.
- Proposed provision of in-home services. If you decide a staff member may provide in-home services, write on the notes page of the student’s IEP what the services will look like and that the services are a part of her distance learning plan only so there is no confusion, Ettinger says. “You need to make it as clear as it can possibly be. Here’s what we are offering for brick-and-mortar learning and here’s what distance learning will look like.”
- Possible resources in the community. Help parents connect with other agencies in the community that may be able to provide services in the home if you are not, Ettinger says. For example, regional centers through the California Department of Developmental Services that provide services and respite to families of children and adults with disabilities in that state are offering support to families during this time. Or consider hiring a private contractor to provide the services if you find someone’s willing and available to work in the student’s home, Ettinger says.
Cara Nissman covers autism, school psychology and IEP team issues for Special Ed Connection, a DA sister publication.