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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

IEPs: "Doing the Best You Can Is Not the Legal Standard"

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

Nicole Chung at NYT Magazine:
Some parents I know have been told that their child’s I.E.P. simply can’t be fully met while distance learning persists — that they will receive not only less instruction than usual but also far less of the individualized support that makes that instruction meaningful. “I think most families are being reasonable, but students’ rights don’t change during a pandemic,” says Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Denise Stile Marshall, the chief executive of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, emphasizes that there have been no waivers to schools’ obligations to disabled students. “You can amend the I.E.P. with mutual consent of parent and district, and you can create an addendum based on what’s feasible given the current conditions,” Marshall says, “but parents and administrators need to remember that ‘doing the best you can’ is not the legal standard.”

“I think most schools’ approach to students with I.E.P.s was to desperately hope they’d be able to have in-person instruction in the fall,” Bascom says. But even if the option of some on-site learning eventually materializes in our district, I wonder about the impact on my autistic child. She needs a consistent routine to feel secure; will switching between home- and school-based instruction make it harder for her to focus? If she struggles to keep a mask on all day, will she face discipline? Will teachers be able to guide and support her — and all other students with their varying needs — from six feet away? Tiffany Jeng, a speech-and-language pathologist who worked with disabled students in on-site Extended School Year classes this summer, says: “It was impossible to maintain six feet between us and our students, and not only because we’re used to giving therapy sitting right next to or across from kids. Many kids need close proximity to understand what we’re asking of them.”