Illinois schools are using distance and e-learning until students can return to the classroom. Parents and educators are trying to meet the challenge of teaching students with special needs during the COVID-19 crisis.
Corena Steinmeyer is the director of the Lee County Special Education Association. It serves just over 500 special ed students in Dixon as well as the Paw Paw School District.
Steinmeyer says one of the Association’s biggest jobs in the current situation has been communicating with parents and giving them options on how to meet their kids’ needs from home.
That means discussing IEP, or Individualized Education Plans, with parents over Zoom or by phone. And options are especially important with many parents working while also trying to help their kids learn.
“We're hoping to make progress, but we're hoping to, you know, the bottom line is maintaining. But we're always looking for progress," said Steinmeyer.
She says her educators, from speech pathologists to therapists, have been making interactive YouTube videos.
Steinmeyer says a majority of her students have internet access, but not everyone. For those that have internet, they’re providing iPads and Chromebooks. For those who don’t, they’re sending more paper-based home programs.
Jessica Sonntag says teachers in special education are used to meeting student’s needs where they’re at. She is the director of student services at the Hinckley-Big Rock School District.
The distirct is providing teletherapy. Some teachers are having online meetings so students can connect with each other.
Hinckley-Big Rock is trying to get mobile hotspots for families without internet access. For other students, e-learning might not be the best way for them to continue their studies.
“(With) some, the technology piece is more of a distraction than a learning tool. So that creates some other challenges for our families to navigate as well," she said.
Sonntag says educators are trying to maintain social-emotional consistency with their students and help them go at their own pace.
And, she says, besides academics, the work gives students a chance to focus on something other than the pandemic. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced distance learning will continue through April 30.