5 Ways Schools Can Meet an IEP's Requirements through Distance Learning

Published December 10, 2020

Distance learning presents a new set of challenges for schools. From finding ways to establish a schedule and rules to ensure that technology is reliable for daily instruction, educators and administrators have likely adapted more this year than any previous year. Following an individualized education program (IEP) can be especially difficult, as many accommodations are designed for in-person instruction rather than virtual instruction.

Technology and accommodations for virtual IEP compliance

The IEP team will need to make some adjustments to a student’s accommodations to ensure that educators and specialists adhere to the IEP’s requirements to prevent them from getting left behind. Fortunately, many tools are available to transition an IEP to a virtual learning environment.

1. Productive virtual IEP meetings

In-person IEP meetings are familiar territory, so switching to a virtual meeting could be worrisome for parents and students, especially. They want their voices heard, and they’re used to advocating for the student in the presence of educators and specialists.

To conduct an IEP meeting remotely, the school needs to ensure that the family has what they need to connect and engage. The school can provide a computer and internet access if the family doesn’t have these tools already. Everyone in the IEP meeting can join 15 minutes before the scheduled start to test equipment, audio, video, and internet connections. Remind participants to mute their microphones when they aren’t talking to prevent disruptive background noises and feedback.

To boost the productivity of the meeting, consider creating an agenda presentation to screen-share with participants. This can help you stay on topic and move through the meeting without missing important points. Make sure the student, parent, educators, and specialists each have a few minutes to share their thoughts or voice concerns.

2. Small group or one-to-one video meetings

For students with a small group accommodation in their IEP, you might schedule one-to-one or small group video conferences outside of the student’s class video schedule. Use the smaller meetings to connect with parents or guardians, if necessary, and recap any information from class meetings. Allow the student to ask questions about a lesson or assignments.

3. Video recording or lesson presentations

Consider recording class video meetings for students on an IEP who need review checks to ensure that they understand instructions and lessons. They can replay the recordings on their own time to absorb any missed information. Creating a presentation for a lesson may also help present lessons to students who require visual accommodations. Use the presentation to guide your virtual meeting and send students a copy or link to access the presentation after the meeting.

4. Take-home kits

Students experiencing sensory processing or focus challenges in school may still experience them at home. Consider offering a take-home kit that targets each student’s unique needs. You might add fidget tools, noise-canceling headphones, a weighted vest, and other items that have helped the student at school.

You can also send worksheets, books, and learning tools home for extra practice. Depending on the student’s grade, some helpful additions might include multiplication and division cards, math cubes, a graphing calculator, and sight word lists.

5. Sensory breaks

Sensory breaks can be as crucial for students in a virtual learning environment as they are in the traditional classroom. Be sure to offer time for students to take a sensory break during and between video meetings. A sensory break can be as simple as letting students get up from their chairs to walk around the room, turn their computer volume off for three minutes, or listen to a relaxing song.

You may need to make additional accommodations for some students. Pay attention to signs that a student might need a sensory break, like fidgeting or covering their ears. Give them a gesture or verbalize that it’s okay to take a quick break.

Distance learning requires everyone involved in a student’s education to remain adaptable. If an accommodation doesn’t work, try something new. Remain in communication with teachers, parents or guardians, and specialists to determine what is and isn’t working to ensure that the student has fair and equal access to education while learning remotely.

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