Special Education

COVID-19 Information: What’s Changed? What Do You Need to Know?

Special Education

Summary: School Districts must still ensure that students with disabilities under the IDEA (those with an IEP) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (those with a 504 Plan) receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). However, what that exactly means will be different for every student, depending on needs and which school district the student attends.


Generally, disabled students are entitled to the same opportunities that general education students get. If school is canceled or closed entirely and no student is receiving instruction, then students with disabilities do not have to get instruction or services. However, the U.S. Department of Education and the New York State Education Department are encouraging (not requiring) districts to offer remote instruction.


According to the New York State Education Department, if the school provides education to all students it must also provide education to students with disabilities, even if they are out of school for medical reasons.  This does not necessarily mean that students with disabilities will get the exactly the same type of instruction that they did when school was open.  School districts are allowed flexibility in the way they teach students with disabilities. Therefore, a student who receives hands-on services like physical or occupational therapy will likely not receive services while the school is closed. But a student who receives speech therapy or sign language interpretation might still be able to receive this service through video. The school can probably provide most modifications and accommodations, such as extra time or directions read out loud.  You should contact the Special Education or Pupil Personnel office for your school district to discuss your child’s specific needs and to find out what the school district can offer.


If your student does not receive the exact services in the IEP when school is closed, then when school opens back up the CSE should consider whether he or she should get compensatory (make-up) instruction. This will depend on how the gap in services affected the student’s progress, whether he or she regressed (lost skills), and whether the student was deprived of an educational benefit.