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March 19, 2020

5 Tips for Teaching Special Education Online

“This is no small task!”

This time of uncertaintyrequiresus tochangehowwe deliver educational services, at leastin the short term.Many special education teachers, paraprofessionals,and administrators are wondering how to provide online services to students with disabilities.As a former special education teacher and administrator, I realize this is no small task! Here are five tips to get started with virtual special education services:


1. Review the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan to identify the most important goals, objectives and services for the learner. This will assist with lesson planning and service provision. (Be sure to follow local and state due process protocols if the student’s IEP or 504 Plan needs to be amended for online services.)

2. Use technology for meetings and/or explicit instruction. Google Hangout, Skype, andZoomare great choices. This new learning environment demands ongoing communication between staff, teachers, support staff, parents and students in order to ensure success. Some of these services are offering premium versions for free to educators during the quarantine. Plus, using these tools to meet and chat online makes this challenging situation better, and students would LOVE to see your face.

3. Remember to evaluate your learner’s needs for assistive technology astheseneeds may be different now that special education services are being deliveredonlinevs. in person.Check out this great articlecalled “5 Assistive Technology Tools That Are Making a Difference”by Alvernia Universityand anotherentitled“Free Online Assistive Technology Tools to Help With Reading, Writing and Math”by Jamie Martin.

4. For the students who can independently navigate learning activities, consider the use of Hyperdocs. Hereis an excellent blog(and tip sheet)on using them:“Personalized Learning w/ Hyperdocs” byMarceeHarris.You can also use a similar strategy if you have students who will need assistance.CreateaHyperdocforthe parent or caregiverproviding step by step information and activitiesso they canguidelearners that are less independent.

5. Use what you have! You know what works withyourlearners, so now it’s time to think about how a typical face-to-face lesson can be delivered online.Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Maybe you’ve normally had a student read a text to you and then you verbally pose questions to check comprehension. What if, instead, you had the learner record themselves reading to you and then summarizing the story? Try this using tech tools like ScreencastifyLoomSeesaw or Anchor
  • You also have students that may have already been using online learning or web-based programs to build skills right in your physical classroom. Share the log in information with parents (or students depending on level of functioning and/or age). Build this into their daily schedule. 
  • Consider assigning life skills tasks that can be done from home! Cooking, laundry, even organizing their bedroom can be an assignment. Be sure to provide scaffolds like a task analysis or checklist, though.

I hope these ideas serve as a spark as you brainstorm and consider the changes to programming you must make for learners with disabilities.

Please remember: colleagues, parents, community members, Teaching Channel, and many other individuals and organizations are here to support you as you continue to provide quality services to our students.

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