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Friday, August 27, 2021

COVID, Special Ed, and Alphabet Soup

 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.  

From the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

We recognize that SEAs, LEAs, LAs, and EIS providers have worked hard to meet children’s needs and provide required services, given the unprecedented educational disruptions and other challenges resulting from the pandemic.4 OSERS wants to reiterate and emphasize that, notwithstanding these challenges, infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families and children with disabilities retain their rights to receive appropriate services under IDEA. This includes ensuring that IEPs are in effect for children with disabilities at the start of the upcoming school year, and all other rights of children with disabilities and their parents under IDEA Part B are protected. Similarly, IDEA Part C requires IFSPs to be implemented and that all other rights of parents and their infants and toddlers with disabilities must be protected. 


  • SEA: state education agency
  • LEA: local education agency
  • LA: state lead agency
  • EIS: early intervention services
  • IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • IEP:  individualized education program
  • IFSP: individualized family service plans

For children under three, the first stop is an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), which maps out Early Intervention (EI). After age three, children get an Individualized Education Program (IEP) from their local education agency (LEA), that is, their school system. The IEP explains how children will receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) The program may include speech therapy (ST), occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), adapted physical education (APE), and applied behavior analysis (ABA) interventions including discrete trial training (DTT). Depending on which state they live in, official agencies or insurance companies may also subsidize services from NPAs (nonpublic agencies). As attorney Gary S. Mayerson observes drily: “Given the confusion that all these unhelpful acronyms are causing for parents and professionals, it is not without irony that autism is associated with communication dysfunction.”