By Andrew Hawk
Pandemic fatigue is a term I’ve recently added to my vocabulary. It describes the exhaustion that results from incorporating many pandemic-based precautions into one’s life over time. While people around the world fight the COVID-19 virus, they also continue to reinvent day-to-day activities so people can function as safely as possible.
Aspects of education that once didn’t warrant a second thought now are the subject matter of planning meetings, professional articles, and even education blogs. The special education community is focusing all its creative energy on meeting the needs of its students while trying to abide by many new safety rules. Here are some ideas special education personnel can try when they are supporting students who require in-person services during the pandemic.
Many occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech pathologists work at medical facilities. One of my daughters used to receive speech therapy at a local hospital. Unfortunately, many therapists who work in medical facilities are not seeing patients in person during this time unless there is a health-related reason. While I have not heard of many service providers volunteering to do in-home therapy, some people are arranging therapy sessions at alternative locations such as schools and community centers. Check and see if this is an option for your students.
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious: remote services are a necessity right now, and we don’t know how long they will be necessary. Since the pandemic began, I have observed a lot of remote services, and they have not all been great. I encourage service providers who have no other option to approach remote service delivery with a sense of urgency, to make the services as authentic as possible. If you are struggling with this, reach out to colleagues and network in your field to get ideas. As long as providers strive to improve, they can close the quality gap between in-person and remote services.
What does your student need for their services? Thera-putty? An exercise ball? A visual timer? Complete a needs assessment and work to get these items to your student. If resources are a challenge, I encourage you to request donations from your community and local businesses. I know this adds one more item to your likely full plate, but seeing the generosity of your stakeholders is a rewarding experience.
A big part of service delivery during a pandemic is training parents and guardians to complete service activities that providers used to be able to do in person. Some in-home adults might be resistant at first, but I think you will find that the majority will agree to your requests because they serve the best interests of their student or students.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a video worth? Even more—because videos can be watched multiple times if a student needs the extra reinforcement. Quality is the key to effectiveness, so review and reflect on your videos to create a great learning experience.
Are you depending on students to complete tasks independently or on guardians to supervise tasks? I recommend also using a documentation strategy to help with accountability, even if it is just a simple checklist. I think most people want to meet all their obligations. However, day in and day out, in the hustle-bustle of life, things can slip through the cracks. Documenting service activities helps ensure students complete them.
Free academic resources have been available on the internet all along. However, after the outbreak of COVID-19, many of the most highly regarded learning websites started offering free extended trials to help support students learning from home. Do some research and see if there are any available that meet your students’ needs. If so, capitalize on the opportunity to try out a great new resource.
Create an Archive of Task Analysis
Task analysis is a detailed set of instructions on how to complete a task. It may use words, pictures, or a combination of the two. Service providers don’t have the time to sit and create these for every activity they complete or potentially will complete with students. Instead, an archive like this can be completed over multiple years and added to when possible. There’s no time like the present to get started. Once you have completed a task analysis, you can easily mail, email, or even text it to adults who can use it to work with students at home.
Stay healthy, everyone!
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for 18 years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. This is Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with this wife and two daughters.
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