Reading supports during school closures
Just because students can no longer receive interventions in a small group in school doesn’t mean their reading or behavioral challenges can wait until the pandemic is over.
“Students’ needs have not gone away,” says Pamela August, a licensed psychologist and school psychologist at North Kansas (Mo.) City Schools. “We need to keep going as best we can, then pick back up when we get back to school.”
Follow these tips for remotely implementing interventions within a multitier system of supports:
1. Reach out. Encourage classroom teachers and reading support teachers to set up calls or videoconferences with families to discuss where students were in terms of literacy interventions before the outbreak and what they can do at home, August says. Make sure families have reliable internet access and an appropriate device.
For students who were receiving behavioral or social-emotional interventions before the outbreak, have board certified behavior analysts call or set up videoconferences with the family or have school psychologists or counselors set up calls or videoconferences with students to gauge where they are, August says. Just be sure a student is safe to talk where he is at home and there is no one else listening on either end if a school psychologist needs to discuss a sensitive topic. “You have to be careful about confidentiality,” she says.
Try not to overwhelm families with calls or videoconferences if students require multiple interventions, August says. “We’re trying to consolidate so families don’t get six calls each week,” she says. “We have a designated point person contact them.” You may want to develop a spreadsheet to keep track of which colleagues have a positive relationship with which families, August says.
2. Equip parents with intervention strategies. North Kansas is offering Parent University webinars to help parents with their child’s behavior and learning, August says. For example, parents can find out how to help their child set up a daily schedule and how to offer positive reinforcement for demonstrating appropriate behavior while learning. The webinars also delve into how parents can manage their own stress and anxiety and why doing so can help their child. “If parents are doing better, kids are doing better too,” she says.
At the same time, don’t inundate parents with resources. School building personnel can send home suggestions with wording such as, “Your principal recommends,” or “Your teacher recommends,” so the information is more useful and personal. “They’re more likely to open it if it’s from their school and their teacher,” August says.
3. Offer students online interventions. North Kansas students are working on their literacy skills using online programs, including Headsprout and i-Ready, August said. Reading support teachers are also offering multisensory lessons through the app Seesaw.
4. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Recognize that this is a tumultuous time for everyone and students may not make progress engaging in reading or other interventions, August says. “Our focus is to stop the backsliding right now. As long as students are not losing progress, we can pick things up when school starts again. We just don’t want them to lose what they already gained.”
5. Give parents the opportunity to ask for interventions as remote learning continues. Students may have been receiving interventions in one subject before the pandemic, but their parents may have concerns that they need additional interventions after learning remotely for a while. Create a form that parents can fill out and submit if they think their child needs extra support, August suggest. “It’s an easy way for parents to reach out and make sure no one is slipping through the cracks,” she says. The form can also ask parents how they prefer to be contacted.
Cara Nissman covers autism, school psychology, and IEP team issues for Special Ed Connection, a DA sister publication.