In recent years, we’ve witnessed a transformation in online education. Online degrees have gained popularity as more and more students are looking for ways to blend their busy lives with school. For these students, online courses are the perfect solution. The same goes for students with special needs. Millions of students are affected by autism, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and other disorders that can make in-person classroom learning a challenge.
In the past few years, more and more students with special needs have begun to attend traditional schools, instead of being home-schooled or attending specialized schools. With this change, teachers have begun to realize that they need to change their teaching styles in order to better accommodate these students. Teachers have also begun to realize that they need to learn about a student’s special needs before the student arrives, in order to make the transition to in-person learning as easy as possible.
With the end of the pandemic fast approaching and some sites already open, it’s time to figure out what it will take to get special education teachers back to work. The desire to return to normal life as soon as possible will be strong, but it is important to recognise that pupils in special education may face many difficulties. With a clear plan and a little patience, you can smooth the transition, minimize disruptions and take the opportunity to catch up on any skills lost over the past year.
Getting started with new assessments
Although many students (and teachers) have learned new skills to adapt to homeschooling, many students with disabilities do not have the support services they need. Despite the best efforts of these students, their teachers and staff, the data shows that e-learning has led to lower student achievement.
Only through updated formal and informal assessments can you obtain the data you need to ensure you are focusing on the content and lessons students need to compensate for their disabilities.
It is also important to adjust the IEP to reflect this valuable new assessment data. Students may not have made the expected progress toward their IEP goals during the virtual learning experience. Therefore, it is important to keep this in mind when collecting IEP data, documenting all ongoing activities, and assessing the current status of each student. Up-to-date data is also the best way to provide the special education team with the information they need to ensure access to appropriate resources and accommodations.
E-learning may have shown that some students are experiencing difficulties in the regular classroom and these students may now need to be assessed for additional services. However, over the past year, many districts have found that it is not possible to test IEPs remotely. So it is likely that these students have not yet been tested, and you may be faced with a huge backlog of tests and referrals when school starts. Now start developing a plan on how your teams will work on and prioritize this backlog. They then work with the general education teachers to help them make the necessary adjustments for the students.
In most schools, e-learning has necessitated closer working with the families and carers of pupils with special educational needs – continue to involve these families in the learning process when you return to the classroom. They can provide important information for developing IEP goals, as they have likely learned a great deal about what works well for their individual students, and they can help you anticipate challenges that may arise when returning to classroom instruction.
Here are some ideas for working with educators to ease the transition to school:
- Give teachers a virtual tour of the school and classroom to share with students before they return to school. This can help students feel more at ease and confident when they return.
- Also share relevant information on topics such as wearing a mask, hygiene, bus use, social distancing, etc. that counselors can share with individual students. This will also help ease the transition period. You can also encourage carers to practise certain skills, for example wearing a mask or washing their hands, so that pupils know better what to expect in class.
- Conduct an email survey of educators about what worked and what didn’t in the virtual learning environment. This can give you important information.
- Hold virtual (or, if possible, in-person) meetings with caregivers. In this way, they can remain involved and ensure that the lines of communication remain open.
Communicate your expectations
For many special education students, a second complete change of routine comes as a shock, and some completely forget the expected behaviors and demands of school. It is important to communicate expectations, routines, schedules, rules of conduct, and any new hygiene regulations related to Covid. Use any tool in your arsenal, including student-led discussions and brainstorming sessions, grading cards and anchor charts, SEL self-regulation tools, reading aloud, positive encouragement, coping skills choice cards, YouTube videos, etc.
Pay attention to the repetitions and be patient.
Rebuilding personal relationships is essential to the successful completion of the process of returning to school. Here are some suggestions:
- Encourage goal setting through informal one-on-one activities and conversations.
- Continue or begin keeping a student journal.
- Greet participants warmly and encourage conversation and humor.
- Integrate the development of social interaction skills with peers into daily activities.
- Watch for and respond to the warning signs of back-to-school anxiety.
- Meeting regularly with students to see how they are doing, not only academically, but emotionally as well.
The one thing you can be sure of when you return to the classroom is that you and your students will need some time to adjust. You cannot prepare for every possible student reaction or other difficulty that may arise. As a special educator, I know you can do it.
Photo by Prostock studio, with Envato Elements license.
This source has been very much helpful in doing our research. Read more about transition planning for students with special needs and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you help students transition to online learning?
Online learning is the big thing in education right now, but not every student is ready to give it a try. Transitioning to online learning can be difficult, especially for students with a disability. Whether you’re a parent trying to find ways to help your child cope or a teacher looking to make your classroom more inclusive, learn more about making this transition a success. Great question! We’ve experienced this transition from a traditional classroom setting to an online course ourselves, and it’s not always an easy one. We’ve learned that the first week of class is crucial to laying the foundation for a successful transition, and we’ve found that the following strategies help us connect with our students quickly and effectively.
What did you do to engage and support your students with the transition to online learning?
One of the biggest challenges of the online learning is that you have to take a lot of responsibility for your own learning. This idea can be scary and worrisome, especially for students who have disabilities or need accommodations for certain situations. One of the best ways to overcome that fear is to have your professors be involved in your learning experience. We have already told you about how to get ready for online classes , but today we are going to take a more personal look into how to make sure that you get the most out of your online classes. As a Special Education teacher, I know it can be a challenge to get students with disabilities to prepare for the transition to online learning. The goal of this blog is to get you thinking about ways you can promote successful transitions for students with disabilities. You will find that the way you support your students transition to online learning will vary depending on the student and their disability.
How can special needs students help online?
The traditional classroom is not a good fit for all students. Students with special needs are often placed in segregated settings where they cannot benefit from the greater resources offered in a mainstream environment. However, online education offers students with disabilities a number of benefits that they cannot find in a traditional classroom. Special needs students face unique challenges when it comes to learning online. For example, they may lack the fine motor skills necessary to navigate a school computer or the hand-eye coordination to use a mouse, and this could make it difficult for them to complete assignments. Fortunately, teachers and students can overcome these challenges by using special needs software , which is designed to be accessible to people of all abilities.