It’s well known that the COVID-19 pandemic made a profound impact on districts in the presence of virtual service offerings, decreased grouping sizes for therapy, socially distanced classroom setups, and alternative access to education during times of illness. Despite the need for new processes, many things remained the same. One of those things is a district’s responsibility to participate in Child Find.
As many know, Child Find is an essential component of the special education and related services process. The Child Find Mandate requires all Local Education Agencies in the state to locate, identify, and serve eligible children that may have a presence of a disability that can impact educational performance. That means that regardless of modality or access to education, steps have to be taken to ensure that children with suspect disabilities do not fly under the radar.
Quarantines, social distancing measures, and alternative education (e.g. virtual services) run the risk of interfering with typical Child Find processes. There are ways to mitigate this risk and outlined below are some tips to assist with locating, identifying, and servicing children that are outside the typical brick-and-mortar setup.1.) Create and adopt district-wide policies promoting alternatives for in-person early detection.
Due to the pandemic, there are many children that do not currently have access to in-person early detection, e.g. a screening provided to them by an early childhood agency.
Alternative processes must be outlined to ensure that early detection takes place in environments outside of brick and mortar. Ideally, if guardians have access to the internet and a device, a virtual-home visit to provide the screener would be an equally beneficial tool to in-person if quality assurance measures, such as bandwidth, are obtained.
In instances where the internet is a barrier, many Child Find screening instruments allow for flexible provision such as provision of the screening over the phone, online, and/or via mail.
2.) Train educators that have virtual classes on identifying the “early indicators” of a child with a delay even in virtual environments.
When virtual, it is easy to overlook negative behaviors that would be considered a “red flag” in brick-and-mortar settings, because the assumption is that the behaviors are secondary to being virtual. Often, the lack of peers with social skills to mimic when virtual can showcase an underlying disability. Educators need to be trained and encouraged to continue to alert the district of students that are struggling.
Here are some examples of things that should alert educators to consult with their team:
- Facilitator interference that might mask a disability (e.g. a parent that steps in every time the child seems to struggle)
- Behavioral patterns seen on-camera that may be masking a disability (e.g. the child slams the Chromebook shut daily during math)
- Student that continuously appears disengaged during the virtual sessions
3.) Offer virtual assessments.
This is an area that often makes many educators nervous. A large amount of our standardizing assessments are not normed to include a virtual service provision.
However, educators and related service providers have the skillset and training to make a disclaimer speaking to virtual assessment but then also make a professional judgment decision speaking to the results of the test.
When the pandemic initially started, there seemed merit to waiting to assess until districts re-opened. That is still an approach to take with many of our young children and individuals with severe deficits that require tactile assistance during assessments. However, many other students can be assessed online and providing that assessment now can prevent many more months of going without intervention.
Educators have been extremely flexible during this unprecedented time. Alternatives to brick-and-mortar education and social distancing measures are likely not ending anytime soon-- and neither are district requirements to adhere to Child Find.
For additional information about creative ways to implement Child Find and virtual service provision, contact TeleTeachers at (219) 301-1090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.