Back To School: Big Special Needs Issue

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Back To School: Special Needs Education Choices

States are starting to lay out their plans for school openings after closing down in March. Emotions are running high for both teachers and parents because there are so many safety issues around going back to school.

We are going to lay some of the options for returning to school this year.       

Option 1. Back To The Classroom

Full time Monday-Friday inside the school building.

This option is strongly recommended for special needs students who require hands on, tactile, sensory learning. Educators believe students with special needs are at highest risk for regressing and falling farther behind with skills.


As I have researched this option I have found a few interesting requirements for opening schools:

  1. required to keep desks 3-6 feet apart.
  2. one way hallways
  3. 10 students to a bus
  4. Daily deep cleaning
  5. Isolation room separate from nursing office
  6. Masks must be worn
  7. Staff daily temperature checks

Option 2. In Classroom and Online Combination

Many districts look like they are offering 2 days in the classroom and 3 days of online classes. The idea being to keep student capacity in the building and classrooms to a minimum.

Parents will still be required to supervise kids on their at home days. This could cause issues around parent work schedules and how to make that situation work. Many workplaces have brought employees back in the office and they are no longer working in the home.

Option 3. Online Learning

All classes online. Pre-Covid online school was already a strong option in education. Some kids focus better outside a classroom learning at their own pace.

This again requires parent supervision during the online school day. Work and home schedules would have to be worked out.

Online options require an internet connection and a computer. This may not be a viable solution for households where these resources are not available. Some school districts provide computers or tablets for students, but many larger districts don’t because an internet connection in each home isn’t guaranteed.

Option 4. Homeschool

You as the parent take over schooling.

Homeschooling has gained popularity especially with school violence often in the news. Parents many times joins a group of home school parents to share the responsibility of education.

Students can work at skills as often as needed with more individualized attention. Parents can offer schedules that work with the child’s temperament, strengths and schedule.

This choice clearly requires the full time attention of one parent. An online connection and computer are helpful, but not completely necessary. Connections with other home school parents to assist with classes, field trips and areas of expertise are important.

Special Needs Requirements


  • IEP must be implemented and followed regardless of school setting
  • In School classes are prioritized for special needs students
  • IDEA requires services be provided for special needs services
  • Special education services have no one single delivery method for kids with IEP’s
  • Students who are unable to comply with face masks are not to be disciplined. Positive behavior supports are to be used.
  • Behavioral supports in the home will look very different than in the classroom and will include parent support and education

Safety Concerns

  • As of today, Corona virus is still a real problem in our world. It is still spreading, making the people it affects sick and in some cases
  • die.

Many nursing facilities have had staff or residents carrying the virus without realizing it, often mimicking allergies or a cold. When site wide testing is done, large numbers of residents and staff are often testing positive for the virus.

Schools in many ways equate with nursing facilities. Even with reduced student numbers in the building each day, students and staff will be in an enclosed space 6+ hours a day. Then they will return home to their own families.

  • Testing will be another issue. Once a staff or student is presenting with symptoms, they will be quarantined until the test returns. This can take from 2-10 days depending on the testing facility. If test is positive, the quarantine will continue.
  • Desks 3 -6 feet apart. Classrooms are small. While there haven’t been class limits before, there would have to be now to meet this requirement.
  • Transportation will be given to special education students first. Approximately 10 students per bus. Many parents will be responsible for before and after school transportation.
  • There is a teacher and substitute shortage in many areas of the country. When teachers are quarantined for Corona virus testing from 2-10 days, an already stretched system may not have enough teachers and substitutes to fill the demand.

Drop us a line here and let us know your plans for sending your child back to school this year!

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About Brewgirl

Hey there!  I'm Betsy.  Mom, RN, special education teacher and blogger at The Autism Daily Brew.  Working hard to bring you the best resources in autism.