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.
Fueled by pandemic-driven necessity, some districts have found ways for parents and educators to collaborate more closely to support kids with disabilities. This spring, many states implemented what are often called “individualized distance learning plans,” which spell out more clearly than IEPs do how schools and families should work together.
The importance of parent-teacher cooperation is outlined in IDEA, yet “we don’t do it well at all,” said [Elena] Silva of New America. “This is an opportunity to connect home and school in a way that we’ve always promised and never been able to achieve.”
And though IEPs have long pledged individualized instruction, distance learning often makes it a requisite. “It acknowledged that students have lives outside of school with very real stressors and responsibilities,” said [Julie} Causton of Inclusive Schooling.
During the pandemic, teachers across the country have been forced to find ways to reach their students in a manner suited to their needs: by recording videos for children who missed synchronous lessons, sending worksheets home with kids who lacked internet access and adjusting deadlines to fit students’ schedules. Causton wants to see schools continue this creative, flexible approach with all students going forward. Not only will children with disabilities benefit, she said, “but so will everyone else.”