Compensatory Services & COVID-19 – How VocoVision Can Help Meet IEP Goals

By: Pedro Olvera, PhD

Compensatory services are designed to help students catch up when the district has failed to implement and provide adequate services as written in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). Understanding how student learning has been disrupted by COVID-19 can help you make informed decisions when it comes to getting your students the compensatory services they deserve. Find out more about the requirements of compensatory services and how VocoVision can help provide these services to your students virtually in our resource.

Compensatory services & COVID-19 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption in children’s learning in many ways, including, but not limited to, academic, social-emotional, and behavioral regression.  The full effects of the COVID-19 learning loss are not fully known because many schools have not returned to their pre-pandemic learning routines. To get a glimpse of the impact of this disruption, a preliminary study was carried out to examine the effects of learning loss in the Netherlands using national standardized examinations that were given before and after the COVID-19 lockdown.  This country provides a best-case scenario given its global reputation of providing equitable school funding and reliable broadband access (Owens et al., 2015) for all students.  Additionally, in comparison to other countries, they had a relatively quick return to brick and mortar learning after only eight weeks.   When analyzing standardized assessment results from both before and after the stay-at-home orders were lifted, scores dropped from 3% to 60,  the loss was more significant for children from disadvantaged homes (Engzell et al., 2021).  This compelling study highlights a challenge that educational systems must address: What compensatory learning resources are available for students, especially those with special needs, to recoup the loss of learning during this past year?

Modifying compensatory services to meet IEP requirements 

To address situations in which students are denied a free and appropriate education (FAPE) or have missed out on special education services, compensatory education is available (Mitchell, 2020). When applied to children with special needs, compensatory education serves as resource to help students “catch up” when the district has failed to implement the services as written in the Individual Education Plan (IEP).  By law, if a student’s disability interferes with his/her learning, the child is eligible for an IEP. The IEP is a legally binding document that outlines the types of accommodations, modifications, specialized academic services, related services, and goals and objectives that will enable the child to make meaningful progress towards their curriculum.  At the outset of the nationwide school shutdown, Former Secretary of Education Betsy Devos issued a guidance document reiterating that FAPE was to continue for children with disabilities even during remote learning (U.S. Department of Education, 2020).  However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to remote learning for many students nationwide, the components mentioned above have been disrupted. In many cases, services have stalled (Ullman Shade & Ware, 2020). Despite guidance from the Department of Education, challenges persist in adapting learning modalities to meet the individual needs of each student remotely. Unfortunately, children with emotional and behavioral difficulties have struggled to access their education remotely without the appropriate support outlined in their IEP (Jones, 2020).

What happens if IEP compensatory services are not provided?

The pandemic taxed many families as they juggled working from home, while simultaneously having to connect their children through distance learning.  Many educational institutions relied on families having access to technology, high speed internet and childcare. Due to many of these issues, many children have fallen behind and those with special education needs, have not received their documented services. With the 2020-2021 school year ending, children continue to fall further and further behind.  Parents continue to express frustrations with the degree of learning loss that has occurred this past year and anxiety and concerns about their children’s education’s future (Jones, 2020).  Students, regardless of their disability, need to have their IEP implemented as written, irrespective of the pandemic or any other extenuating circumstance.  As mentioned above, when the IEP is not being implemented as written, parents and school districts can request compensatory services to “make up” lost services and meet IEP requirements. Compensatory services for special education are not limited to those that are provided in-person. They can also be provided virtually and can be equally effective (Roschelle et al., 2020; Robinson et al., 2021).  Providing compensatory services virtually can provide students with the benefit of a pool of experienced clinicians with specialized training and technical skills to help students recoup the academic skills lost this past year.

Providing compensatory education virtually

VocoVision has provided remote services for over 10 years. With a team of clinical expertise across all disciplines, VocoVision partners with school districts across the country to ensure that children with special needs can access the services and support required to access their curriculum in a way that will highlight their potential. 

Examples of compensatory services that can be provided virtually

School Psychology ServicesSchool psychologists assess students’ cognitive and learning abilities using standardized tests. Using assessment results, they consult with parents and teachers and help develop accommodations to allow children access to their academic curriculum.Evaluations and counseling sessions are conducted through VocoVision’s interactive platform with a specially trained school psychologist. School psychologists collaborate remotely with parents and educators to ensure that students progress and provide consultation services to improve academic outcomes.
Speech and Language TherapySchool-based SLPs provide services to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children to help them access their curriculum. They also consult with parents and teachers by recommending accommodations and modifications to help them achieve their potential in their educational setting.SLPs assess and provide intervention with children using live, innovative, and engaging technology. Telepractioners consistently monitor progress to ensure that students are making gains towards mastering their IEP goals. They collaborate and update school professionals and parents.
Special Education Academic InstructionSpecial education teachers work with students who have learning, mental, emotional, or physical disabilities. They adapt general education curriculum lessons and teach basic skills for students with disabilities. They also assess a student’s academic needs and write IEPs outlining goals to address academic difficulties.Special education teachers use video conferencing technology to provide high-level instruction and interactive and engaging interventions for students. Through Vocovison’s platform, teachers can access hundreds of resources to help children apply strategies to help them achieve their potential.
School Social WorkersIn school systems, school social workers treat and diagnose behavioral, mental, and emotional issues caused by problems in a students’ day-to-day life. School social workers work with general and special education students and collaborate with parents, school staff, and teachers to help implement treatment plans.Through VocoVision’s interactive platform’s conference technology, school social workers work closely with parents and educators to identify student needs, directly implement treatment goals with students, and monitor progress.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH)Teachers of the Deaf (also known as ToDs or teachers of the hearing impaired) provide support to deaf children, consult with parents and family and other stakeholders who are members of the IEP.Remote DHH teachers provide services through an engaging and intuitive platform. DHH teachers instruct, assess, participate in IEPs, and regularly communicate with all service providers and parents periodically using technology. Using live stream and engaging teaching methods, DHH teachers can model strategies to reinforce learning for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Occupational Therapy (OT)School-based Occupational Therapists (OT) are directly involved in the evaluation, intervention, and assessment of outcomes for students with special education needs. OTs collaborate with parents, teachers, and other educational staff to design and carry out school-based activity plans for students that improve, develop or restore functions that have been impaired or lost through illness, injury, or deprivation.Using remote and engaging technology, OTs can observe a student in the classroom and offer strategies so that teachers can help the child with the use of self-regulation skills, have more appropriate interactions with peers, or increase participation in activities. In addition, OTs provide live therapy targeting motor and sensory integration skills using evidenced-based intervention software.
Physical Therapy (PT)PTs focus on the physical movement of students, providing support during the transition between settings in their educational environments. Key responsibilities include modifying physical environments to facilitate student access, recommending accommodations to help students meet IEP goals, and consulting with school staff on strategies to increase student participation.Remote PT sessions may include live on-screen assessments and video exercises. Therapists provide evidence-based activities remotely, which are completed in their setting.
Teachers for the Visually Impaired (TVI)The role of TVI specialists is to provide direct and consultative special education services specific to vision loss. The TVI supports students, teachers, and parents and acts as a liaison with community services.Remote TVIs modify environments from an online setting just as well as they do onsite. TVIs are trained to teach braille and implement evidence-based practices through interactive online sessions and software to enhance learning. TVIs, using video conference technology, will observe classroom environments and provide feedback and strategies to teachers.
Speech and Language Interpreters (SLI)SLIs work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing to help in accessing by interpreting the spoken language from their teachers, peers, and administrators. SLIs can deliver services in either a group setting or in a one-on-one environment.Remote SLIs shadow the student through remote devices like tablets and smartphones. Through VocoVision’s platform, the SLI can interpret oral and written language. They can also help implement accommodations and modifications as written in the IEP.

Working with VocoVision to deliver compensatory services & meet IEP goals 

All VocoVision clinicians undergo a rigorous onboarding process to ensure that they are qualified to provide exceptional compensatory services to students.  This onboarding process includes a thorough review of certificates and licenses, clinical interview, technology requirement and competence assessment, and a thorough background clearance.  VocoVision’s requirement goes above and beyond by ensuring that all clinicians have at least two years of clinical experience and dual-licensed, both in their home state and where they will be licensed if it is a different state.  In addition, all clinicians are required to participate in VocoVision’s rigorous training, which includes using interactive technology to deliver services, understanding confidentiality, collaborating with schools and families, and troubleshooting to help parents and school districts navigate challenges should they arise.

What happens when schools reopen?

While Fall 2021 is clearly on the horizon, and many schools are planning to attend in-person, compensatory services can continue virtually. In fact, despite the challenges of distance learning, some students, especially those with IEPs, are reportedly thriving (Black et al., 2020).  Considering that schools may go back to brick and mortar or hybrid models, VocoVision services quickly adapt to either model and continues providing services to students virtually.  This partnership works well with school districts because it is cost-effective, based on the learning styles of each student, and lessons are individualized.

How to get started

If you’re ready to learn more about how VocoVision can partner with you and provide compensatory services and recoup their educational losses, click here to contact us today!

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