What to consider when drafting individualized contingency plans

Individualized contingency plans may be a regular part of IEP team meetings
By: | March 22, 2021

Districts began SY 2020-21 crafting individualized contingency plans to align with their remote learning efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individualized contingency plans may be a regular part of IEP team meetings henceforth, say Jeremy Neff, a school attorney with Ennis Britton Co. LPA in Cincinnati.

“A lot of what’s happened is with us to stay,” said Neff.

Having individualized contingency plans in place can help garner trust among parents and ease transitions for students to remote learning.

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When developing the plans, he said, the IEP team must be sure to include parental input and document that parental input.

Neff said future use of individualized contingency plans should depend on the individual child’s needs. He said districts should be responsive to those needs, asking:

  1. What goals are you going to work on in remote learning?
  2. What goals will not be addressed during remote learning?
  3. Why will those goals not be addressed in remote learning?

“I think there are some distinct risks that come with contingency plans,” said Neff. “New needs may creep up. That is certainly a risk with putting together a contingency plan.”

Neff said districts need to be able to fulfill the needs in an individualized contingency plan such as addressing assistive technology concerns that arise during remote learning.

IEP teams should review individualized contingency plans with regularity.

“I think with remote learning plans, they’re going to get stale really quickly,” said Neff. “I think if you’re going to develop a contingency plan not to be used immediately, you should develop a plan to revisit it.”

Additionally, he said the individualized contingency plans should answer, “How are you going to monitor progress?”

Behavior is also a consideration

From a complaint last fall, the Colorado Department of Education found that Denver Public Schools’ efforts to adapt a child’s IEP to remote learning provided him FAPE to the “greatest extent possible” but concluded that the district failed to adequately monitor the child’s progress on all IEP goals.

The state also ordered the district to review the IDEA’s requirements on progress monitoring.

Neff lauded some of the Colorado district’s efforts, including its use of templates for all contingency plans that IEP teams could use to craft more detailed plans to meet the needs of their individual students. And, the district made good use of paraprofessionals to help fill in gaps from in-person learning, he continued.

By mapping paraprofessional supports onto remote learning, paraprofessionals can help by checking in with students, providing direct behavioral support for task initiation, providing incentives and help during difficult tasks, providing positive encouragement, and helping the student access instruction and maintain organization.

Behavior is also a consideration when devising individualized contingency plans. Neff said training for parents on their student’s behavior needs during remote instruction will be important; be it responding to behavior through nonverbal prompts during instruction or recognizing what leads up to or triggers a behavior during instruction.

Jeremy Neff is scheduled to present “Wish You Were Here! Planning for Remote Learning,” during LRP’s National Institute, April 19-21.

Johnny Jackson covers special education issues for LRP Publications.