January 2021

Authors: Caitlin McAndrews, Esq. and Alexander Corbin, Esq., McAndrews Law Offices; and Stefanie Ramirez and Marissa Band, Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI). An original version of the article was published in Delaware’s News Journal.
All students with disabilities are entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) by state and federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The current COVID-19 pandemic has not suspended or delayed that crucial right. Whether the public school delivers instruction virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid model, it must meet the educational needs of its students with disabilities.
Unfortunately, some special education services and supports cannot be delivered virtually or even part time with the same effectiveness as when students learn full time, in person. And some students do not learn as effectively in remote and hybrid models.
Physical and Occupational Therapists cannot use the same methods to develop a child’s gross or fine motor development through a computer or distanced as they would up-close and in-person. Online instruction and in-person, masked interactions both fall short when instructing students with social skills deficits in how to read facial expressions.
Teachers struggle to provide hands-on learning opportunities through the computer for their more kinesthetic learners – those who learn best by moving and hands-on activities.
Students who benefit from routine, especially those with executive dysfunction or Autism, do not adjust well to hybrid schedules. But these and students with many other, varied needs are still entitled to an appropriate educational program, tailored to their individual needs and designed to facilitate meaningful progress.
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