A recovery plan for pandemic learning losses

July 29, 2021

Make a recovery plan for pandemic learning losses

The return to school will look a little different this year after a year filled with uncertainty and new routines. While you may be returning to a more typical school year, the transition away from established pandemic guidelines may present challenges, and we may have to remain flexible about changes in guidelines throughout the school year. Even with this challenge, it may be important to focus on getting your child back on track with progress toward reaching their learning goals and working toward their full potential during the 2021-22 school year.

It is important to work with your school to figure out what your child needs to “catch up” on due to the disruptions of the pandemic over the last year. To do that, you must know and understand you and your child’s rights and options. Here are a few important things to keep in mind as you advocate for your children and prepare them for a successful year ahead.

Understand the American Rescue Plan and how it impacts you.

The American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief package passed in March of this year, includes $3 billion in dedicated funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs. The $3 billion allocated to IDEA will go a long way in easing the financial burdens felt by schools and helping them meet their service commitments to students with autism and other disabilities.

Talk to your school leadership about the funding your district received as part of this plan and how they will be using it to help your child make up for disrupted learning or lost skills over the last school year. Make sure the dollars they spend will have a direct impact on your child’s progress toward catching up on what they missed or struggled with across all areas of their education - academically, socially, behaviorally and more. Some ideas that your child’s team might consider for recovering learning or skills include: Extended School Year (ESY) services, additional related skills programming such as speech and language or occupational therapy, tutoring in an area of need, or more time with a one-on-one aide.

Schedule an Individualized Education Program (IEP)/504 team meeting.

You have the right to call a meeting with your child’s IEP/504 team to discuss how your child’s goals will change in order to make up for lost time, or a regression in skills, knowledge or behavior. Prepare for the meeting by writing out how you feel the pandemic impacted your child’s education, as well as things the team may be able to do to help get back on track.  Additionally, share what your child has learned and any strategies you found that were helpful. You are a partner with your child’s school team, and your input on the goals that are set in the IEP or 504 plan document are an opportunity to work together on goals that will help your child best. Goals may need to be changed based on your child’s current skill levels and what you want them to achieve.  It may be helpful to discuss whether additional assessments or specific data is needed to understand where your child’s skills are to determine current needs.

You may also find it helpful to create a plan for the 2021 school year, including your input on IEP or 504 plan goals and other important considerations prior to meeting with your team.

Understand the difference between recovery learning and the legal term “compensatory services.”

As a partner in your child’s education and part of the IEP or 504 plan team, you can be your child’s advocate to help focus on recovering any lost skills or learning that your child experienced with the pandemic.

Compensatory services, also called compensatory education, means education services that are awarded by a court as a legal remedy to compensate a student for lost services. The lost services must be determined through a judicial proceeding to have been the result of the school’s failure to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) as mandated by IDEA. They key concept here is squaring up – not exceeding what was due or punishing the school.

There is some confusion around compensatory services because there is no federal definition, as education hearings are handled state-by-state. Many school districts, parents and agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, use these terms interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between recovery of skills and learning through modified IEPs or 504 plans and legally awarded compensatory services.

It is important for families in our community to know that compensatory services exist and, very generally, how they work. Learn as much as you can about eligibility for these services and if your child might have a legal entitlement to them.

Be patient.

It is important to be realistic and remember that despite all your best efforts, change may not happen immediately. It will take time for your child to readjust to school and regain some of their lost momentum. But through your advocacy, patience and collaboration with the IEP team, in time your child can continue making progress toward reaching their full potential.

If you need additional information and resources to help you prepare, our Autism Response Team is here to help. Call 888-288-4762 or email help@autismspeaks.org.

Autism Speaks does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties. The views and opinions expressed in blogs on our website do not necessarily reflect the views of Autism Speaks.

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You can also reach the Autism Response Team by phone or email: 888-288-4762, en Espanol 888-772-7050, or help@autismspeaks.org.