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What resources are available for special ed students in the middle of the pandemic?

Illustration of coronavirus and school desks
Special education assessments are backlogged in many school districts due to the pandemic.
(Murugiah / For The Times)

We’re answering readers’ questions about life during the pandemic:

What responsibilities do school districts have to meet the needs of students with disabilities in light of distance learning and COVID-19 safety rules? What additional resources are available?

California requires that school districts continue to provide special education services to students with disabilities as required by federal law.

Amid the pandemic-forced school closures, state Supt. of Schools Tony Thurmond said all students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education.

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We asked readers for their most pressing coronavirus questions. The topics included schooling, passports and healthcare. These are answers from experts.

However, the reality is that many of the hands-on therapies and services that students received before campuses shut down can’t be adequately delivered via distance learning. Also, the state has waived timelines that allow students to quickly receive assessments, which determine the services needed for each child.

The assessments, now conducted virtually, are backlogged in many school districts.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the district is working to improve teacher-student interaction and will conduct online assessments for special needs students when possible.

California has mandated that school districts continue to provide special education to students with disabilities during the pandemic, but has waived key timelines that allow students to receive assessments and services quickly.

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One resource that could help: RespectAbility.org, a nonprofit that advocates for individuals with disabilities, has released a free guide to help families navigate distance learning. “Virtual Education & Students With Disabilities Resource Guide” is available at respectability.org/virtual-education.

The website also includes a resource center of other links for parents who find themselves pressed into the role of teacher this upcoming school year.

Also, a large nonprofit called the Help Group is offering a free webinar Wednesday with experts who can explain how to navigate special education challenges. Find more details at thehelpgroup.org.

Follow our education team as it covers the road to reopening at latimes.com/education.

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— Times Education Team

We’re listening, L.A.: Tell us what you want to know about the most pressing questions you have at this time — how to find a job, the best ways to manage your finances, and whether it’s safe to send your kids back to school or off to college — and we’ll find the best experts to answer your questions.


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