You Don't Have to Settle for Less with Distance Learning!


"Ask the Advocate" is our forum to bring you answers to questions that are timely and important to families of students with disabilities. Each month I will ask Lorraine Hightower, Dyslexia Advocate and Consultant, your top questions and bring her answers to YOU!



How will my district’s decision to provide 100% Distance Learning affect my special education student?

By only offering a Distance Learning model this fall, your district is making a change in placement for your child. A child’s placement is always considered when creating an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities. A change to your child’s IEP must be agreed upon by the special education team assigned to your child. For this reason, it is imperative that if your child has an IEP, that you reach out to your school team and schedule an IEP meeting to review this new placement as well as the agreed upon services and accommodations for your child. Although some districts are telling parents that Case Managers will be reaching out to them to discuss their child’s IEP, I urge parents to act now to get a meeting on the calendar as soon as possible. If your child’s Case Manager doesn’t respond to emails during the summer, reach out to your child’s school Principal or regional Special Education Supervisor to request an IEP meeting prior to the start of school.


The good news is that an IEP allows parents the power to advocate for their child’s needs! There have been no changes in state or federal requirements regarding the district’s responsibility to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This means that your district still has the responsibility to provide the services and accommodations that have already been agreed upon by your child’s IEP team. Feel empowered to call your child’s IEP team together this fall (or earlier) to ensure that your child will receive all that they need to access the curriculum and make progress toward their IEP goals!


We have created a guide to help you be prepared for this very important school meeting. It lays out, step by step, how to get ready for this conversation so that you are empowered to advocate for your child before you even step foot in...or log into... your IEP meeting! Download our FREE GUIDE , 4 Steps to Success! How to be Ready for your Distance Learning IEP Meeting, now!




Is it reasonable to ask my district to provide all parts of my child’s 504 Plan or IEP that would have been provided in a regular classroom situation?

Yes! At the end of this past school year, parents and teachers alike were in “emergency mode.” Parents tried to step in to help fill the role of teacher and special education teacher, as districts and teachers scrambled to provide some form of online learning. Because of this mayhem, requirements for attendance and grading were greatly reduced.



This will not be the case for this next year. Students will be expected to show progress as they would in a typical classroom setting. Therefore, parents will not be able to, nor should they be expected to, step in as qualified trained teachers. We will need our district teachers to provide the instruction, remediation, accommodations, and progress monitoring tools that are necessary to support children who will be working towards their IEP goals.



That being said, I also suggest that parents think creatively about how schools can provide their child the services and accommodations outlined in their child’s IEP or 504 Plan. Share your creative solutions with your child’s school team, and have data or a rationale to explain why this solution is best for your child’s unique needs.


Examples of Some Creative Solutions:

  • Offer to go to the school to pick up certain supports or accommodations that are used in the classroom so they can also be used at home. These items may include special seat toppers, fidget items, special pencils or pens, bands for chair legs, behavior cards or assistive technology devices.

  • Request a flexible schedule that may include more frequent breaks or other modifications that suit your child’s needs.

  • Some of the specially designed instruction your child requires may need to be provided in person, in accordance with the state governor’s re-opening guidelines. If your child requires in-person learning, will the school district provide your child with these services or will they reimburse you for private providers?

It is important for parents to recognize that the delivery of your child’s IEP services and 504 accommodations may look different than when school was physically held in the school buildings. In fact, some of the accommodations, such as preferential seating, may no longer be relevant. Download our FREE GUIDE 4 Steps to Success! How to Prepare for your Distance Learning IEP Meeting for tips on how to prioritize what your child needs and what to accomplish at your next IEP meeting.



What if I don’t agree with what the IEP team is proposing for my child?

As a parent, you are a full member of the special education team that makes educational decisions for your child. I want parents to feel empowered, knowing that they do not have to settle for less now that districts are requiring 100% Distance Learning. If you don’t agree with what is being proposed in your child’s IEP, don’t sign it. I know that seems simple, but it is an option that many parents don’t realize they have.



Parents also don’t know that they can sign their child’s IEP with “partial consent.” So if you agree with parts of your child’s IEP document, but not all of it, you may sign with partial consent, noting the parts in the IEP with which you do not agree. Signing with partial consent or in “partial agreement,” allows the district to provide the agreed upon services and accommodations, while tabling the other parts of the IEP until they are agreed upon.



If you do not agree with your child’s IEP, you have a few steps you can take to advocate for your child:

  1. Be sure that your district provides you with Prior Written Notice along with the data and rationale for why they are denying your IEP requests.

  2. Elevate the conversation by inviting other district representatives to a follow up IEP meeting. Including the Special Education Supervisor, Assistant Special Education Director, Content Specialist, or other specialist such as an Assistive Technology Facilitator may result in a more productive IEP meeting with effective decision making.

  3. Consider your right to file a state complaint, request mediation or in the most egregious situations, consult with an attorney about filing due process.


These are the ‘procedural safeguards’ that are in place to help parents successfully advocate for their children and ensure that they receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).




We are entering a school year that is unprecedented. If you need support advocating for your child, please reach out. As a parent of a student with disabilities, I have also had to deal with life changing, unanticipated challenges. While it isn’t always easy, parents always have options. I offer complimentary “What Keeps You Up at Night” consultations (click the link to book a free consultation) so that we can discuss your child and what they need to access the curriculum and thrive in school. I would love to talk with you about how I might make a difference for your child and your family!




© 2020 Lorraine M. Hightower, LLC 

 44135 Woodridge Parkway, Suite 260 Lansdowne, VA 20176

(703) 638-3514

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