Summary of Facebook Live Q&A: IEP Questions

Jan 8, 2021 | Blog, IEP/504, Video

1/6/2021 Facebook Live

Kate Martin, TN Dept of Education, Senior Director of Special Populations 

Jen: Thanks everyone for joining the first Facebook live of 2021. She explains this is a recurring event on Wednesdays at 12:00 noon. This is an opportunity for parents to ask questions to the Department of Education regarding Special Education to different experts in the department. Jen then introduces Kate Martin as Senior Director of Special Populations in the Department of Ed.

Kate: Kate explains how she and her team focus on eligibility and evaluation for Special Education and Instructional programming for students with disabilities. The ages serviced on her team are from ages 3-22. School Psychology services, behavior, and academics for students with disabilities are some of the areas her team cover.

Jen: Asks Kate how long she has been at the department

Kate: “I came to the department at the beginning of 2017, as an Intervention Specialist to the Special Populations team. I was brought on to focus on move forward the work for access to instruction. Also focused on intensive intervention, for our children with disabilities. Making sure our children have access to Tier 1 as well as the supports and services they need in Special Education”. At the end of that year she moved into her current role. She continues to provide services she continues to do the work she previously did, while supervising and working with a team of professionals. She and her team also work on evaluation and eligibility in pre -school and behavior low incidents and autism and Speech language and related services.

Jen: “I ask this of everybody. What are the biggest challenges you are noticing in special populations in the time of COVID-19?”

Kate:  Highlights two things. She notices technology has been a challenge for everybody. She hopes that in the future that some things we have done in COVID can continue after COVID pandemic. She would like to see parents have the option to attend virtual IEP meetings, so they will not have to miss as much time from work. “I hope we can use what we have learned to become stronger “.  Kate also notices that it has become clearer that students with disabilities need access to Tier I instruction and communication and access with their peers and access to services and support available to them.

Kate also mentions that she plans to prevent at the PIE conference this month. The topic is, “Access beyond the pandemic”. The goal is to take heightened awareness revealed from the pandemic to try and make positive changes.

Jen: Thanks everyone for sending in their questions and starts to read some of the questions for the families.

Question: “My child’s annual IEP was scheduled for Spring 2020 but was canceled due to COVID. The IEP team finally met in September, but nothing was signed at that time, because there wasn’t enough data for the goals at that time. What is the timeline for when the IEP will need to be finalized and what are my next steps as a parent to get the IEP completed and signed off”?

Answer: “There has not been a waiver of any requirements in IDEA surrounding IEP development or IEP timelines. Essentially, if the IEP is passed due, then it’s passed due. The team should meet as soon as possible to finalize a new annual IEP. There is not anything to get you out of those timelines. The law is you have a new IEP every 365 days if not more often. That’s still in place”

 Question: “What happens if a parent doesn’t sign the IEP”

Answer: “Parent rights remain the same. If as a parent you disagree with the IEP, you have a right to file an administrative complaint. You have the right to ask for mediation, and you certainly have the right to file for a due process. You also have the right to call another meeting and do what you can to come to an agreement with the IEP team. We encourage you to work with the school district as much as you can. “

If after the meeting the rest of the team agrees, and the parent does not agree, that can not be implemented for 14 days. That gives the parent the opportunity to file for due process. If the parent wants to say they do not agree. If the parent does not file due process, the IEP goes into place after 14 days.

Question: “Are the COVID cases per school listed anywhere? I feel like if I could see that information then maybe I could have made the call myself to keep my child home, and he wouldn’t be sick right now.

Answer: Every school district was doing there on thing. It may be a good idea to reach out to district administrator. There was a school reopening dashboard that was launched in September. The purpose was to provide information on Tennessee cases in schools. Here is a link.

Question: “What do you do if a child with a disability is not learning from virtual learning?”

Answer: “The best thing to do is to schedule a meeting with your child’s IEP team. It’s the place where everyone can put their heads together and see where are, we, where are we trying to go, and how can we get there. The IEP team is like the problem-solving team. They can do a couple of things. They can make changes to the IEP document, finalize that, and put that document into place.

The IEP team can also create a contingency plan that is used on a short -term basis for virtual learning periods, on a short-term- basis.  When that is no longer needed, you will go back to the original IEP. Contingency plan is a side bar plan for when the child is remote. Also, bring solution that is working for your child at home.

Question: “What if a student is not receiving the support they need for successful virtual learning?”

Answer: Schedule a meeting with your child’s IEP team and talk about supports in the IEP and what is and is not working in the virtual setting. If there was a particular support that worked in the classroom what is kind of an equivalent in the virtual classroom. Discuss the supports in the IEP and what is working and what is not working. Also encourage IEP teams to go the goals of IEP and see what can be done to get the goal met. This should spark creativity.

Question: What do you do when schools are on virtual and there is not much time to prepare or have a game plan?

Answer: “There is nothing to say you can’t get together with the IEP team and create this contingency plan proactively. Let’s say, you see the cases rising and think that virtual learning may be coming. That way if you move to virtual you have a plan. This can also be done afterwards. A lot of districts may have included this in their Contingent Learning plan.

Question: “How do you prepare for student’s with IEP’s to be ready for virtual learning?”

Answer: “What I don’t want to do is make this sound easy. It has a lot of challenges in some way. I do think there are a lot of opportunities within those challenges. It goes back to knowing the student and knowing what they need to access general ed and knowing what their annual IEP goals really are. When I know the student and I know what they need to access instruction, I know what supports and services they need, it makes it a little easier for me to think outside of the box. Ask what that looks like in a virtual setting.

An example “If a child has a service for inclusive support during English, the big question is, why? What supports did they need? The supports they needed had to do with X or Y or Z and I know that, then I can think about how to do that virtually. It really goes back to knowing the student.

Question: “If a child needs a one on one paraprofessional and has one, and the parent is unable to step into the role of the paraprofessional, is there any creative solution? There is fear the IEP team may want to just remove one on one.

Answer: “Maybe the IEP plan creates a contingency plan and they don’t change the IEP, until there becomes a reason to change the IEP. That alleviate the fear a little bit. It’s not about that IEP. It’s about the current short-term condition” That’s the answer to the last part of that question.” I would also go back to what was the purpose of the one to one. There could be a wide variety. Was the purpose of the one to one to manage some difficulties with peer interactions? If that is true, those peer interactions have changed a lot. Those interactions are now comment sections or chat boxes or break out rooms. How can those be supported? Look at what the purpose was and see how that can be supported in a different environment. “

Also, “Whatever the one on one was supposed to be accomplishing for that child, hopefully to build independence, be more of a self-advocate, become more self-reliant, maybe this is an opportunity to think about why they are there, and how the student can continue to build on these skills in this environment, and still give them the supports they need.

Question: “Are there any districts any districts letting students meet their paraprofessional while everyone else is at home?”

Answer: It is very district specific. Some districts are allowing it, and it was in the districts Contingency Learning Plan in the fall for some districts. Contact the IEP team, specific school and districts for a direct answer.

Jen: Thanked everyone for joining and reminded everyone of the Facebook live next week with to Assistant Commissioner Theresa Nicholls