Backlog of SPED Evaluations–What will Schools do?
I recently read a March 31, 2021 article in Texas Standard that reported more than 800 Austin ISD students whose families have requested special education evaluations are still waiting for those assessments. Some have even been waiting over a year. “An advocacy group for people with disabilities filed a lawsuit Monday claiming the Austin Independent School District is ‘failing thousands of students’ by not evaluating them for special education within a specific amount of time.” The article cites delays due to shortages of qualified staff to complete the evaluations.
In the coming months, I predict we will see more articles similar to this as parents are frustrated with school closures, delays in evaluations and decreased or limited education services. Articles and lawsuits will be discussing and addressing numerous issues that have come out of COVID-19. Although compensatory education is often mentioned, I agree with Andrew Feinstein, Esq. who wrote a blog for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) about “Comp Ed” stating “Let’s not rely on compensatory education to remedy the damage done to our kids during the period of COVID-19 school closure. ‘Comp Ed’ are fighting words. By talking that language, we are creating a confrontational posture with school districts and we are misleading our clients. Compensatory education is not the right analytic framework for this situation.” He continues “Only in extreme cases, such as where the district refuses to provide any education to students with a disability while providing distance learning to all other students, would a strong claim for compensatory education likely be successful. Parents, who have been carefully tracking performance during the period of distance learning, should have a significant voice in setting the current level of performance. If the student’s performance is below where it was on the day schools closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, the IEP team will be obliged to provide more intensive services than those provided in the prior IEP.” So, even if your district may not provide compensatory education, many students may see an increase in their Special Education services. Shortages of qualified staff have already been cited as an issue and schools need to be prepared for increased assessments as well as more intensive services. Clearly, schools and districts do not want to be presented negatively in the news for being unprepared for the post-pandemic education system.
I encourage school and district leaders to be on the forefront and contact Lighthouse Therapy today. We are here to help and partner with your team. This week, we received the following compliment from a Special Education Director at one of our schools we service: “Desi P. just completed her first bilingual speech and language evaluation session with our bilingual student. I wanted to share with you that she was warm, positive, engaged and seemed to identify important information about the student in the time she was with him. Also, the student opened up to her in a way that I haven’t seen him do with anyone before. It was great to see! You probably already know this, but she seems like a great addition to the Lighthouse Therapy team!!”
Lighthouse Therapy is poised to immediately provide assistance and support to school districts like Austin ISD and yours! Our therapists include Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and School Psychologists who are licensed in the state they reside as well as the state in which they are providing coverage via teletherapy. Our remote therapists partner with the district team members virtually to collaborate and fill-in any assessment or direct services gaps as well as increased services. Check out the Lighthouse Therapy website to see our virtual assessments listed. Assessments and direct services can be done virtually—and more importantly— they ARE being done in other schools and districts throughout the United States. Many parents will begin asking (if they have not already) about why teletherapy or teleassessment is being offered in one school/ district but not in theirs. Don’t delay, we can assist you and your team today. We know schools and district teams are working hard to support their students and families. Our therapists are happy to help!
Contact Lighthouse Therapy today at 1-888-642-0994 or schedule a consultation today. We look forward to supporting your students’ needs.
Written by: Erin O’Connell Ed.S., NCSP, Director of Clinical Services, Lighthouse Therapy