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News & Info

Preparing Children with Disabilities for a Return to In-Person Learning

Children with disabilities were no exception to the unprecedented disruption to daily life caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. With a return to in-person learning on the horizon, there are many tasks parents must do to prepare their children for returning to the classroom. For some parents, this can mean obtaining the assistance of a lawyer and a doctor to navigate the public school system for their child.

Federal law governs the identification, evaluation, eligibility, services and accommodations of children with developmental delays, disabilities, and chronic diseases that may impede their learning or access to education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA: 20 USC § 1400 et seq) purpose is, “To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.” (20 USC § 1400.601(d)(1)(A))

Being equipped with this knowledge can help parents advocate for their children, which can improve education outcomes as well as improve overall health.

Health Justice Advisory Board Member and attorney, Kathy Jensen, has this advice for parents.

“Special education students faced significant difficulties receiving specially designed instruction and related therapies during the Covid-19 shutdown of in-person education.  Upon returning to in-person, parents should ensure the IEP [Individualized Education Program] for their child is appropriate for in-person, not remote, learning, determine if recovery services are needed to recoup any educational losses, and related services are implemented quickly.”

IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is a document that describes the measurable goals and services a student will receive. It must be rewritten and updated at least every 12 months. Services may include speech therapy, physical therapy, behavioral or other therapies identified by a Pediatrician.

Through education and awareness training, offered through the University of Providence Health Justice certificate program, students will synthesize information about health inequities, social determinants, and epidemiology to create intervention strategies for a variety of patient populations, including children with disabilities. Students will be asked to demonstrate emotional intelligence, reflective personal growth, and compassionate leadership when leading organizations. Students will apply systems and leadership theories to affect change to meet strategic goals within their organizations.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling to prepare for a return to in-person learning for their child, please contact Northwest Justice Project’s Special Education Clinic, the number to call is 206-707-7292.  Clinic hours are Tuesdays from 12 to 2 pm PST and Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm PST every week. Call to make an appointment.

For more information about the Health Justice certificate at University of Providence, where students can learn more about the overlap between the medical and legal fields, please contact: