COMPENSATORY SERVICES AFTER A PANDEMIC: HOW??
When I look at services and teaching strategies provided by schools during the pandemic, the variety and methods of services have been as diverse as the schools themselves. Then add special education students into the mix and the variety gets even larger. Some districts have embraced online teaching and distance learning. Some have had moderate success and others have thrown their hands up and said it just doesn’t work. No matter where you and your district fall on this spectrum of services, the US Department of Education has been clear that special education services and a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) must be provided to students qualifying for special education under IDEA during distance learning. As a result of delays in getting services started, internet and equipment problems, the learning curve of school educators, etc., there are now innumerable hours of compensatory services owed to students on IEPs across the United States.
In a case involving an Air Force family against the Dept. of Defense Education Authority G. v. Ft. Bragg Dependent Schools, 343 F.3d 295 (4th Cir.2003) the Court defined comp ed -“Compensatory education involves discretionary, prospective, injunctive relief, crafted by a court to remedy what might be termed an educational deficit created by an educational agency’s failure over a given period of time to provide a FAPE to a student.” (https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/comp.ed.law.htm). Compensatory services are not specifically addressed in any of the legislation related to students with disabilities rights. These services have evolved as the result of Case Law, meaning “the law was established by the outcome of former cases” (https://www.lexico.com/definition/case_law).
I recently viewed a webinar, “Pete and Pam Wright Answer Questions about Compensatory Education, IEPs and IEP Meetings in New Webinar” (https://drroseann.com/special-education-during-a-pandemic/). They presented an in-depth discussion on the topic of compensatory services related to the pandemic. This included what it will mean for parents/schools regarding the daunting task of providing compensatory services to students with special needs. If you have time, it is about an hour, it would be well worth your time to watch it. Some of the takeaways I gleaned from this webinar confirmed what many of us in the educational arena already know.
1. There will be no quick fix for compensatory services to students from the pandemic.
2. The ground rules are not even set yet from the courts, because we all know there will be lawsuits and due process hearings as a result of missed services and children regressing as a result.
3. Did schools do everything they could with their given resources, timelines, and difficulties such as access to equipment and internet access, to provide the appropriate services to the student?
4. Educational regression and compensatory services are not a simple math equation. Data collection, documentation, and student evaluations will be required to determine the level of compensatory services students will need to regain the skills that have been lost during the period of inadequate educational services based on the student’s IEP.
5. There is no authorization in the law for the use of a Contingency Plan to replace a student’s IEP during the pandemic.
As district administrators, special education leaders, principals, and coordinators, what can you do to overcome this problem? There was already a shortage of related services staff across the country before the pandemic, how are they going to cover what has already been lost? I understand this is a frustrating and daunting task not of your own making! As a CEO and Speech-Language Pathologist of an online therapy company, I have witnessed and helped to answer these very questions. Many schools have switched to online service delivery successfully during this pandemic. Online therapy services are effective and study after study has shown they are comparable to face to face services. You can find some of these on the FAQ page on our website: How does the quality of online therapy services compare to face to face services? Schools have contracted to receive these services via a contract therapy company such as Lighthouse Therapy to provide these compensatory sessions. Others have developed a relationship with a contract company to provide a comprehensive platform for their therapists to use with their students and those services have included professional development to get their staff up to speed on providing virtual online therapy services. The most effective model, when you have a staff of your own, but not enough to cover all your students’ needs, is a blended model. Therapists work both virtually and face to face. Your therapists would provide the face to face services when they are able and in the meantime, they work virtually with additional contracted therapists online and have colleagues that can relieve the burden of compensatory services and have therapists with the experience of providing online services to help mentor them and help them navigate the learning curve required to switch to providing online therapy services.
At Lighthouse Therapy, we understand that you want to be equipped to handle this crisis that has gripped our country and our schools. To do that, you need staff with the expertise to transition easily to online services. We believe no one should have to handle this crisis alone, which is why we have a waitlist of experienced online therapists ready to work for you. We receive on average 10 resumes per week. We can cover the increasing number of compensatory sessions and help your staff to navigate online therapy services by partnering with you. All you have to do is:
- Schedule a phone consultation by clicking here.
- Get a proposal for services only based on your student’s needs.
- Your students receive online therapy services.
SO, SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION AND BE PROACTIVE IN NAVIGATING THESE DIFFICULT TIMES.