Parents as Teachers: The New “Norm” in a Time of Crisis

We are all painfully aware of the health crisis currently facing our country and the world.  Many things we considered typical in the beginning of 2020 have undergone huge changes in response to fighting COVID-19.

One of the most drastic changes is how schools have responded by closing to stop the spread of the virus.  To safeguard the health of our children and school staff, online learning has become the new normal for the instruction of all learners.  The extensive closing of schools and universities has forced an online mandate for instructional delivery.  This  approach has not been utilized to such an extreme extent, until now.  At best, teachers, professors, related support providers and the like have developed scheduled direct instruction lessons with students through participation in online learning sessions between the teacher and student(s). At worst, schools are struggling and may have only provided passive learning activities for students that parents, older siblings, private tutors, etc. use to deliver instruction directly (face to face) to students.  Even in the best of circumstances, parents and others have had to assume instructional roles out of necessity.

For more typical learners, this new learning arrangement may be challenging.  For students with disabilities who have IEPs that require direct instructional strategies, specially trained teachers, related services support staff (speech therapists, occupational therapists, paraprofessionals, etc.), or individualized instruction, the change has been fraught with huge challenges.  HUGE.

While this arrangement would not be the choice for most (if not any) students with disabilities, it is in fact, today’s reality and likely to continue at least until the end of this current school year. 

Parents have become essential partners with schools in order to implement and reinforce online instructional approaches now used by school systems nationwide. Like many teachers, parents and others at home have been thrust into an unfamiliar role that requires a significant number of daily hours assisting children with online instruction. The key difference is that some teachers may have received training or guidance for this new instructional role, but parents have likely received little to none.

Understandably, the nature of online instruction varies greatly between systems and states. This great variability impacts the amount and type of support parents can or are expected to provide.

Parents can feel frustrated and concerned about their child’s online education, especially as it relates to  the child’s IEP. 

How are other students, parents and others at home coping with this new reality of modern schooling in the wake of the health crisis? How are students’ IEPs being delivered? How are special education teachers able to provide specially designed instruction? How are supports like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy fitting into online learning? What happens to the paraprofessional who regularly supports a student in one or more classes? How is access to the general curriculum achieved? 

In an effort to assist parents, Responsive Instruction, LLC will provide several online communication and learning events designed specifically for parents of students with disabilities. Our goal is to support parents and others who are shouldering the responsibility of teaching, supporting, and/or reinforcing the educational learning of students with disabilities.  Our hope is to provide an avenue to share, ask questions and take away ideas and suggestions that, when followed, may be helpful to you and your child(ren).  Also included in the forums will be the Responsive Instruction’s Tracking Log for Online Instruction© that can be used during Covid-19. This log will be provided free of charge to all registered participants. The use and discussion of this log will be one focus of our outreach. It was designed specifically for parents to track services and supports and will hopefully assist in future planning for your child.

Join us each Tuesday, beginning on April 28, 2020, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm EST for Virtual Coffee and Collaboration with Sharon and Angie.  Simply register for this free Zoom series of informal “coffee” chats mixed with follow-up ideas from Sharon, Angie and possible guest hosts as well. We look forward to seeing you Tuesday night!

Registration link for Virtual Coffee and Collaboration with Sharon and Angie


By | April 22nd, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

No More Suspensions!

It is the third week of school.  A child with autism is in a first grade class with a teacher, a paraprofessional and 8 other children with autism.  This young child has communication needs so severe that an augmentative alternative communication device is a part of the supports provided.   Frustration abounds in this child’s day.  Routines are not set. Expectations may not be clear and practiced. Transitions are not well defined.  Sensory overload has occurred.  The child was not ready to transition.  The child was not able to say, “Please wait. I want more time.”  Frustration overflowed in this precious child.  He shoved his classmate.  He pushed a chair into another student.  He was suspended.

What is to be learned from this scenario?  How does suspension relate to the behavior exhibited?

This question MUST be examined by every administrator in every school where students with disabilities attend.  In fact, it is a question to be examined by all administrators of all children.  We are learning to understand and implement Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in some of our nation’s schools for some students.  What are the PBIS strategies to act proactively and the behavioral support  strategies for students like our child in first grade?  Explain how suspension helps?  What does it teach?  How does it help address and prevent the triggers that likely caused the unacceptable response by the child with autism?  How does it teach the child to better handle frustration and respond differently next time?

Yes, administrators have tough jobs.  Bless them.  No, hurting a classmate/teacher with such a response is not an action we ever want to see at school or anywhere.  But there are far better solutions to address the situation than suspending the child.  IEP teams need to be flexible enough to quickly address these kinds of situations.  Administrators need to reach out to those teams.  Teams need to reach out to administrators.  Let’s keep the child in a positive learning situation.  Let’s make sure more children are not hurt, or worse, by teaching the wrong lesson.  It’s the age old question: Does punishment work?  Not in this case or any other like it.

By | September 23rd, 2018|Behavior, Uncategorized|0 Comments