Special Education Newsletter

Updated information, tips and ideas to support families during distance learning.

September 25, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) publishes a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updated DSS information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Supporting Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tips and Tricks to Support Your Child’s Learning at Home 
Topics include a wide range of topics including getting students ready to learn at home and tips for supporting students with reading and math.  These resources are from the IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University.

Behavior Support for Virtual Learning

Quick Tip on Routines
Virtual Learning is well under way! We know that staying on top of foundational structures is key to success for students and families during virtual learning. To learn more about strategies for virtual learning at home, check out this quick tip video on routines.

Social and Emotional Support

Many parents are concerned about their child’s social and emotional well-being during the pandemic.  Children and young adults may be facing a variety of challenges at this time, including changes in routine, adjusting to virtual learning, and possibly experiencing trauma or feelings of insecurity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a clearinghouse of resources for parents to help them address their children’s mental wellness during the pandemic:  COVID-19 Parental Resource Kit: Ensuring Children and Young People’s Social, Emotional, and Mental Well-being.

Who to Go to with Questions

As we embark on distance learning, students and caregivers will have questions and issues that arise that they have not experienced before. The table below provides some of the most common types of issues or questions that may be anticipated and indicates who to contact for help. Email is the best way to reach staff during distance learning. https://www.fcps.edu/return-school/supports-students-disabilities

For questions about


Specific course, assignment, or learning resource


Supports or accommodations

Special education case manager or 504 School Based Coordinator

Supports or accommodations for English learners

ESOL teacher

Problem with an FCPS-issued laptop

Teacher will submit support ticket for student

Personal or social emotional concern

School Psychologist or School Social Worker

Other issue related to distance learning

Principal or assistant principal

Help to resolve concerns, problems, complaints, and other student-related issues

Office of the Family and Student Ombudsman (ombudsman@fcps.edu)

Special education procedural questions, assistance with IEPs, due process or other dispute resolution processes, assistance with complaints for students with disabilities or students with 504 plans

Office of Special Education Procedural Support (includes Multi-Agency Services, Due Process & Eligibility (DPE)

Special education instructional supports, behavior intervention, related services, assistive technology, and career and transition services

Office of Special Education Instruction

Healthy Minds Podcast

If you’re looking for tips and strategies to support your child’s mental health and wellness from home, check out the new Healthy Minds Podcast. Guests include school psychologists, school social workers and others from our community who support the well-being of students across the county. Each week you will hear from guests, and hopefully, take away information that will help you support your children, friends, and even yourself in maintaining wellness. You can listen to the Healthy Minds Podcast using your favorite podcast app on your phone or by visiting https://www.fcps.edu/blog/healthy-minds-podcast.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the:

Archived Newsletters

April 27, 2020

April 27, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) will be providing a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updates, information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during the school closure.

FCPS understands the concerns of parents with respect to providing FAPE for students with disabilities when instruction is provided to all students. What constitutes FAPE will necessarily look different in light of the current pandemic and the closure of schools for all our students, and parents can be assured that FCPS will make educational opportunities available to all students, including students with disabilities. 

We will be doing our best to provide FAPE within the constraints of distance learning.  Regardless of the challenges we face, we will strive to support all our learners within the distance format.  FCPS staff are here to work with parents and to make the best out of this unprecedented situation.
If parents have specific concerns about special education services during the school closure, there are multiple resources to reach out to for assistance and support (see information below for details):

  • Your child’s teacher
  • Your child’s school principal
  • Your school’s Procedural Support Liaison 
  • FCPS Special Education Ombudsman (ombudsman@fcps.edu)

Confidentiality Notice

The Department of Special Services has developed a Confidentiality Notice for parents/guardians related to the use of Blackboard Collaborate and Google Meet as online platforms used by Fairfax County Public Schools for distance learning.  This notice includes information related to the disclosure of a student’s personally identifiable information and guidelines and expectations to ensure that the confidentiality rights of all students are protected when live video sessions are used.  View the Confidentiality Notice

Mental Health and Wellness

Parents may schedule a 30-minute mental wellness consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker for support or guidance during this unprecedented and challenging time. The consultations are also available to connect parents and students with available community resources. Parent consultations are available for all grade levels and student consultations are only available for students in middle or high school. Information about scheduling a consultation is located on our Coronavirus Update – Mental Health and Community Resources page.

Special Education Instruction

For children ages 2-8:  Check out the Learn and Grow section of PBS Parent Resources for resources and games which cover a variety of topics, by age, such as:  emotions and self-awareness, social skills, literacy, math, science, and arts. 

Supporting Behavior

Looking for information on how to build a new routine for your child during distance learning?  Check out this Build New Routines Strategy Packet.

Frequently Asked Questions

My student's case manager emailed me a document, but I cannot open it. How can I see it?
Please be sure you have the most recent free Adobe Reader loaded on your personal device (PC, laptop, tablet, or phone) and then try again.  Adobe Reader can be downloaded at https://get.adobe.com/reader/. Another alternative can be to access the PDF using the Internet Explorer web browser.

Who do I contact if I have questions and/or concerns regarding my child’s IEP, reevaluation/eligibility, 504 or other special education process to assist in my child’s education during distance learning? 
Parent(s) or guardian(s) should contact their child’s case manager or school administrator at their child’s school. If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the: 

Department of Special Services

May 4, 2020

May 4, 2020

Special Education Instruction

Are you looking for ways to support your child during this time of uncertainty?  Check out the FCPS Elementary School, Middle School, and High School special education resources which cover a variety of topics for families of students with disabilities such as: reading/ language arts, mathematics, communication, behavior, executive functioning, accommodations, adapted PE, physical and occupational therapy, hearing services, and vision services.

Helpful Distance Learning Resources for Parents

Managing Meltdowns

Does your child have difficulty calming themselves down? Check out our Calming Strategy activity that can be used to introduce and teach calming strategies as part of self-regulation.

School and Community Resources

Individual social emotional support is available at all school levels to address social emotional learning, mental wellness, and access to basic needs. To learn more about these activities and supports, please contact your child’s school counselor, school psychologist, or school social worker. Community resources can be accessed through the following links:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the next steps being offered if I do not wish to sign the TLP?

Answer: The Virginia Department of Education advised school divisions to develop a plan that meets its own individual needs during the time of the emergency school closure. Like other large school divisions in Virginia, FCPS developed the temporary learning plan model to identify what goals, accommodations and services could be provided to students during this time of closure. The TLP is not an IEP and it is not a waiver of rights under IDEA.  Your child’s IEP will be implemented when we resume school. A parent may elect to not provide a signature on the TLP. If you do not sign the TLP, school staff will collaborate with you to resolve your concern. This may include having an administrator, department chair/ lead teacher, and or procedural support liaison (PSL) participate in the conversation.  If necessary, an IEP meeting with relevant members of the team can be scheduled. If you choose not to sign the TLP, the outlined service(s) will still be offered and will be delivered, unless you choose to opt out of instruction.  

Language Supports

Parent Information Phone Lines 

Parent Information Phone Lines are available in eight languages to support families with information whose first language is not English. 

Translation Information

Information posted on the FCPS public website allows the user to select their preferred language, which then generates translated text on the web page. In the top left-hand corner, you will see an icon allowing the user to indicate their preferred language.

Icons of flags of different countries followed by the word "language"

On some webpages, users may also see an area allowing them to select their preferred language.

Translate this page text followed by red buttons for each language that is available.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the: 

May 11, 2020

May 11, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) will be providing a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updated DSS information and tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Accommodating your Child’s Learning Style

Does your child have executive functioning challenges?  Is it difficult for your child to begin work, stay focused on tasks, manage time, or follow through on assignments or projects?  Check out these great executive functioning strategies.

Early Childhood Special Education

Early childhood special education teachers will be supporting distance learning through play activities. Some fun ideas: 

  • Help your child find five objects in your house that are blue.  Ask your child what they found. 
  • Fill a container with 1- 2 inches of water and see which objects in your home sink or float.
  • Play musical chairs – when the music stops, everyone finds a chair to sit in.
  • Gather a few objects in your home and lay them out in front of your child.  Ask your child to cover their eyes and remove an object.  Ask them what’s missing.

Prompting to Independence

Are you finding that you must prompt your child through everything? Are they waiting for you to do everything for them?  Check out the Promoting Independence tip sheet. Teaching independent skills improves quality of life, teaches constructive use of free time, and develops age appropriate interests.

Behavior Intervention Services

Looking for information on avoiding power struggles by minimalizing distractions?  Check out this video to help your child be successful with instruction in the home environment.

Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Support 

The Student Safety and Wellness Office offers virtual alcohol and other drug prevention support to all students through pyramid substance abuse specialists. Unfortunately, substance use and addiction don’t stop for a pandemic. If you need support for your child or if you are trying to have conversations about addiction, drugs, and alcohol and need material, please feel free to reach out to the assigned Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist for your child’s school or call 571-423-4270

Helpful Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) Resources:

Frequently Asked Question and Answer

Why are parents of special education students being asked to sign confidentiality agreements?

There are two separate notices for parents to consider.

  1. The first notice does not require consent:
    FCPS developed a Confidentiality Notice for parents/guardians related to the use of Blackboard Collaborate and Google Meet as online platforms used by Fairfax County Public Schools for distance learning. This notification includes information related to the disclosure of a student’s personally identifiable information and guidelines and expectations to ensure that the confidentiality rights of all students are protected when live video sessions are used. Parents are not being asked to sign the Confidentiality Notice.
  1. The second notice requires consent from parents:
    Parents are asked to sign consent for some related services because of licensing requirements for teletherapy. When a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, or school social worker works in a real-time, multimedia format, parental consent must be obtained for services to occur in this manner in accordance with applicable law and/or licensing. This includes video interaction with students/families and also special education meetings such as IEP, Re-evaluation, and Eligibility meetings.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the: 

May 18, 2020

May 18, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) will be providing you with a regular electronic newsletter to provide updated information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Behavior Intervention Services

Offering Choices Reduces Frustration
Check out this quick tip video on offering choices. This is especially useful for students who are having difficulty with challenging or non-preferred work. Building in choice, when possible, allows students to feel motivated. The strategies in this quick tip are best used:

  • When transitioning to difficult tasks
  • When transitioning to non-preferred tasks
  • After presenting challenging or non-preferred tasks to reduce frustration

Parent Video Training

Presenting Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) video parent training for parents of students with Autism and other developmental disabilities!  The ABA team has developed a series of videos for parent training.  The series starts with Developing Schedules and Routines within the home environment. The next part of the series will include “Walk with Me” strategies for taking walks outside and teaching your child to walk beside you.

Virtual Extended School Year (ESY) Services

FCPS will provide class-based Extended School Year (ESY) services virtually from June 29-July 24 to students, grades PreK thru 12, whose IEP team determines that the student qualifies for ESY in order for the student to receive benefits from his or her educational program during the regular school year.  The IEP team must decide whether the benefits the child gained during the regular school year, prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, will be significantly jeopardized if the student does not receive ESY services. 

Instruction will be provided through the distance learning model with synchronous sessions with students, learning materials available online, and packets sent through the mail to students. Specific information will be shared with families and school teams this week. Information will be shared on the FCPS Extended School Year webpage when it is available.

Suicide Prevention Training for Adults

Fairfax County provides free online suicide prevention training to educators, parents, and other adults working with youth through the Kognito At-Risk training modules. The training allows you to enter a virtual environment and assume the role of an adult interacting with a young person. The interactive portion of the training allows you to choose actions and responses in order to receive real-time feedback on how well you are doing to engage the student in conversation and take appropriate actions. The one-hour training teaches adults how to differentiate between “normal” and “at-risk” behavior, as well as how to provide appropriate support and access resources within the community or on an emergency basis.

Visit Fairfax County’s website at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/, enter “Kognito” in the search box, and scroll down to the bottom of the page to create an account to get started. Or, visit Kognito’s website at https://fairfax.kognito.com/.

Third Quarter Special Education Progress Reports

Due to the mandated COVID-19 school closures, special education services and data collection for third quarter progress reports ended on March 12, 2020. Based on the shortened timeframe for instruction, student progress may have been impacted. Teachers will use data collected prior to March 12, 2020, to complete IEP progress reports for third quarter. IEP Progress Reports will be emailed to parents no later than Friday, May 22, 2020. For students whose parents do not have an email address listed with FCPS, the FCPS Department of Special Services will send the progress reports via US mail. Special education students will not receive an IEP progress report for 4th quarter. 

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the: 

May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) will be providing you with a regular electronic newsletter to provide updated information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Special Education Instruction

Are you feeling like you are having to do everything for your son or daughter? Want to build independence at home? Check out this video on building independence. This short video will outline how to be successful at teaching independence by prompting and fading your assistance over time.

Teaching social-emotional skills to young children is very important. Resources to support families to help preschool age children identify and express their emotions have been provided by the Center on the Social-Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. 

Successful Strategies for Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children with ADHD continue to need structure and support during distance learning.  How can a parent or caregiver help provide the support their child needs when learning at home?  Check out several strategies recommended by experts from Child Mind Institute.

Maintaining Wellness and Self-Care

During this time parents are balancing work, children being home and other stressors. It is more important than ever to implement strategies to cope with stress. Utilizing effective coping strategies supports your own mental health, but also models those skills for your child. Prioritizing your own well-being can benefit the whole family. Check out these resources on self-care:

Behavior Intervention Services

A good strategy for routines and activities that may seem difficult or are not preferred, is to break them down into smaller steps. Accomplishing each step will help your child or teen feel more successful as they work towards something that may be challenging. This helps to reduce frustration and increase motivation! Check out this quick video on how to avoid upset or frustration as students continue with digital learning this week. Consider breaking down tasks this week to decrease frustration or burn out and increase feelings of accomplishment!

Frequently Asked Questions

How will special education stakeholders be included in FCPS return to learn process? 
The Superintendent has implemented a Reopening of School Task Force to develop possible scenarios to address the needs of all FCPS students, including those with disabilities.  The group includes parent, teacher and administrator representatives. The initial plan will be shared with the School Board in June.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the: 

June 1, 2020

June 1, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) will be providing you with a regular electronic newsletter to provide updated information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Three to Succeed!

The Fairfax County Youth Survey, which is administered to all 6, 8, 10, and 12 graders provides a wealth of information about a variety of topics related to our youth that influence their physical and mental well-being. Data from this survey suggests that the more assets young people have, the less likely they are to engage in a wide range of risky behaviors or show mental health symptoms. It only takes three assets to make a significant difference! Everyone plays a role in ensuring that children are thriving in Fairfax County. Parents can provide their children with the following assets; be available to help, know where your children are, involve your children in family decision-making, show respect for all family members, and communicate a clear disapproval of drug and alcohol use. Learn more about building assets in your child

Special Education Instruction

Parent Self-Care

At this point in the school year, you may be having trouble figuring out how to continue to support your child’s learning needs along with other family, work and personal responsibilities.  That’s understandable!  However, you are on the home stretch.  Check out the article "Feeling Overwhelmed with Parenting Demands" for key steps and strategies you can use right away to decrease your stress level and feelings of being overwhelmed by parenting duties.

Frequently Asked Question

My child has required extended school year (ESY) services in past years, however, the IEP team has not yet discussed ESY for summer 2020.  What should I do?
This summer, ESY class-based services will be provided virtually to students June 29-July 24. The instruction will be provided through the distance learning model with synchronous sessions with students, learning materials available online, and packets sent through the mail to students. Contact your child’s case manager and request an IEP meeting to review data and discuss whether the student requires ESY for summer 2020.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the: 

June 8, 2020

June 8, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) will be providing you with a regular electronic newsletter to provide updated information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Read With Your Child

My Hero is You is a book written for children around the world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This book is intended to be read to children aged 6-11 years, by a parent, caregiver or teacher. The feedback of more than 1700 children, parents, caregivers and teachers from around the world about how they were coping with the COVID-19 outbreak was considered during the development process (© 2020 World Health Organization). View translated versions of the book.

Supporting Your Child During Stressful Times

Race and equity issues continue to be at the forefront of the news and social media. Your child and family may be experiencing anger, fear, sadness and/or a variety of other emotions over the killing of another person of color. Parents may be struggling with how to protect their children from viewing violence while also discussing systematic racism in America. Feelings of uncertainty are particularly heightened for communities and families struggling to understand and cope with hate-based violence, and discriminatory or threatening actions or speech.

Parents can access this article "Supporting Vulnerable Students in Stressful Times: Tips for Parents" to review ways to understand the effect of stressors and trauma; promote a sense of safety for your child, and influence how your child reacts to the stress associated with this current climate. Also, you can reach out to your child’s counselor, school psychologist and/or school social worker for further support for your child.

Special Education Instruction

  • Your child’s brain grows fastest from birth to age 5. Vroom is a free app that can be downloaded to provide you with daily activities and tips to support your child’s development.  
  • Does your child get angry very quickly? Do they have no “wait” time? Think about teaching your child a calming strategy. Calming strategies help students learn to stop, wait, and think prior to a tantrum.  Check out our Beginning Self-Regulation Activity. This will help parents in teaching calming strategies in a systematic way so that students learn on their own to regulate their emotions.

Frequent Asked Questions

I believe my student has a disability and the school told me there is a “Summer Clinic.” What is that and how can I get my child tested over the summer?
FCPS has a requirement to conduct Child Find all year to identify children who may have a disability and who may be entitled to special education services.  The Summer Clinic program is implemented at two schools over the summer and staff collaborate with school-based staff to complete evaluations, or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to meet regulations. This year’s Summer Clinic will be conducted virtually and runs from June 22, 2020 to August 7, 2020. For more information about summer clinic, please contact your child’s school administrator or email dpehelp@fcps.edu.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the: 

July 6, 2020

July 6, 2020

Dear FCPS Families,

FCPS has been working quickly to plan for the various options for educational programming that are available to families as we anticipate the reopening of schools this fall. During these unprecedented times we are continually looking to maximize efforts to engage and support students receiving special education services.

From March 2020 through the end of the 2019-20 school year, schools were ordered closed by Governor Northam.  FCPS offered Temporary Learning Plans (TLPs) to students who would normally receive special education services through the end of the 2019-20 school year in order to assist them in accessing the additional learning opportunities that were available to FCPS students. 

During the 2020-21 school year, all students will receive at least some of their education virtually, but we are anticipating FCPS schools will be open. We will not be offering TLPs as we open in the fall since we are reopening schools. Consequently, once school staff return to work, they will be reaching out to you to schedule an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting or seek your input on an IEP addendum for your child. School staff will need to discuss special education services, including related services, for your child for the upcoming school year based on whether you’ve chosen in-school instruction with social distancing or full-time online instruction for your child this fall.

Once students are back in school, IEP team members will review individual student data to determine needed interventions or supplemental instruction based on IEP goals since last school year.  FCPS staff is currently reviewing various options to support COVID recovery education and remediation for all students, to include specific strategies and programs for students with disabilities. Staff is exploring the possibility of providing additional in-school learning opportunities during the school week for any student in need of additional supports. 

The Virginia Department of Education has advised school divisions that it will be providing additional guidance in the weeks to come regarding the reopening of schools this fall. Once that guidance is published and additional information is gathered related to in-school attendance and classroom space, we will be able to provide more details to you regarding what the return to school will look like for your child.  

I want to assure you that FCPS is currently consulting with the Fairfax County Health Department for guidance on protocols should a student or staff member become ill with COVID-19, cleaning procedures, health screening protocols, and the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure a safe environment for students and staff. All staff who are specifically assigned to individual students with significant needs will be trained/retrained on safely managing personal care duties and maintaining staff personal safety. 

We know there are many unanswered questions and we are working to gather information as quickly as possible. The Department of Special Services will return to sending a regular newsletter to families of students with disabilities beginning the week of July 13 in addition to updating the special education frequently asked questions document on the FCPS special education webpage. Additional information about the Return to School Plan is located here: https://www.fcps.edu/returntoschool/return-school-questions-and-answers. As we continue to move through this unprecedented time, we appreciate the continued collaboration to support the educational programming for your child.


Teresa Johnson
Assistant Superintendent
Department of Special Services

July 16, 2020

July 16, 2020

Dear Families,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) is providing a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updated DSS information, tips and ideas to support you and your child as you prepare for the return to school.

Fostering Resilience in Your Child

Resiliency is the capacity to overcome adversity by responding in healthy and productive ways to successfully meet life’s challenges. When we foster resilience, children are able to bounce back from stress, trauma, and even daily challenges. Teaching these skills helps children to be braver, more curious, and better able to problem solve and cope. Learn more about building resilience in your child.

Supporting Your Child’s Safety and Wellness

Many children with special needs, including children and young adults on the autism spectrum, will require explicit instruction about how they and their loved ones may remain safe and healthy during the pandemic.  The Autism Society of America has developed a COVID-19 toolkit that includes social stories about how to wear a mask, what “social distancing” means, and ways for kids to play and participate in activities safely.  Learn more about these resources. View additional helpful resources on mask wearing, handwashing, and ways to adjust to change

Summer Learning Fun

Neighborhood and Community Services Connects is a virtual platform for 1st through 12th graders of all abilities and their parents. It is designed to emulate the experience of visiting a Community or Teen Center. The platform features original programming such as self-directed activities and videos led by staff members, as well as on-demand resources for youth and parents in five categories: adapted virtual learning, culture, academics, health and wellness, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEAM). New content is added every Monday. View the NCS Connects resource

Frequently Asked Questions

How will 504 plans be implemented in the online and in-person options?

It is expected that 504 Plans are to be implemented, as written, for students in both the in-person and virtual learning options.  If a student’s current 504 Plan needs to be modified for any reason, including the need to further refine accommodations/services to address the virtual learning environment, a 504 Plan meeting will need to be held to document any needed changes. In most cases, the child’s school counselor also serves as their 504 case manager.  Parents may contact their child’s counselor to address any concerns or questions regarding 504 Plan/services. If parents wish to discuss concerns prior to the return of counselors in August, they are encouraged to contact the school principal.  Additionally, the FCPS Section 504 specialist, Kathy Murphy (kamurphy@fcps.edu), is available to consult with families and staff.

What are the plans for Early Childhood Special Education and Preschool Autism Classrooms (PAC)?

During the school year, teachers will provide intensive small group and large group instruction to address IEP goals and curriculum during face-to-face learning.  Teachers will reach out to parents for coaching sessions to address natural learning opportunities in the home.   Additionally, other asynchronous activities will be provided for students to access. During online learning, teachers will instruct students in both large and small groups virtually to address IEP goals and curriculum. Both synchronous and asynchronous learning will be provided along with weekly coaching sessions for parents.

Will special education teachers and related service providers be instructing my child in a small group or will it be individualized? 

Special education teachers and related service providers will be providing instruction in groups and one-on-one as appropriate for students’ goals and scheduling. For students who receive related services who selected the in-person option for instruction, the service will be scheduled as part of one of their days in school.  The service may be provided individually or as part of a small group. Appropriate PPE and social distancing will be observed. In some cases, in-person services may be supplemented by virtual services during asynchronous instruction days.

How will common accommodations such as movement breaks, fidgets, flexible seating, etc. be administered in online and in-person options? 

If a student requires an accommodation such as a fidget or movement cushion in person, those will be provided to the student and not shared between students.  If those same accommodations are required in the home environment, we will be sending those required supplies home as well.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the:

July 30, 2020

July 30, 2020

Dear Families,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) is providing a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updated DSS information, tips and ideas to support you and your child as you prepare for the return to school.

Healthy Minds

Healthy Minds is a blog for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. As a part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax initiative, the FCPS Office of Intervention and Prevention Services develops posts with timely information for all. Recent topics have included; Social Emotional Learning, Countering Stigma and Racism, and Building Resilience to Handle Challenging Times. Healthy Minds includes tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community. New content is posted weekly. Visit the Healthy Minds Blog

Summer Learning Fun

Summer Reading Program (Fairfax County Library) - The library helps make reading fun by providing tools, access and incentives during its Summer Reading Adventure. The Summer Reading Adventure runs June 12 through August 14 and invites all children and teens—birth through high school—to read for fun over the summer. The theme in 2020 is “Imagine Your Story!” This summer the program will be virtual.  

The Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE’s) Assistive Technology Network has developed resources targeted to parents with companion information for teachers. All materials are free and may be shared with educators or families.  Resources include:

Tools for Creating an Active Home

The Online Physical Education Network (OPEN) has many resources and ideas for physical activity while at home.  Families can find games and calendars to use, and there are also ways for teachers and parents to partner together to provide opportunities for physical movement and social and emotional learning. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How will my child, who receives adapted physical education, access that service when school opens virtually in the fall?

A: Adapted physical education teachers will consult and collaborate with health and physical education teachers to modify activities/lessons to meet student needs and problem solve around challenges that may occur across learning environments. Additionally, they will develop instructional activities and strategies that support student success in an online environment. Questions can be directed to the student’s adapted physical education teacher. 

Q: Will there be online social skills groups? How will social/emotional IEP goals be addressed in the online format? 

A: School Counselors, School Psychologists, and School Social Workers have been providing services and support in asynchronous and synchronous formats. Often these are in collaboration with teachers and other clinical staff. Clinicians will need to assess online time as students reenter school.  Social emotional and mental health resources will be available to support students this fall. Schools may use morning meetings/ check-ins, intervention blocks, or advisory periods to provide instruction on social emotional topics using new and existing curriculum. FCPS instructional staff will have required professional development that focuses on understanding mental wellness and appropriate tools to support students. Clinical and counseling staff will provide mental health support and resources, including group counseling and consultation for students and families as needed as well as individual counseling with students and related consultation with families and staff.

IEP goals in this area are considered areas of instruction and led by the special education teacher.  The clinicians and general education teachers support the goals as part of the student’s educational team.  These goals will be addressed in a manner similar to academic goals and as they would be during in person instruction.

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the:

August 14, 2020

August 14, 2020

Dear Families,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) is providing a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updated DSS information, tips and ideas to support you and your child as you prepare for the return to school.

Social Emotional Learning

You may have been hearing a lot about Social Emotional Learning or SEL and providing SEL instruction lately. What is it and why is it important? The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “how children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Although SEL has been around for years, it is gaining momentum since it provides numerous benefits to students. SEL will be a major focus for our staff and students this school year. Learn more about SEL at home

Family Guide to At-Home Learning

The CEEDAR (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform) Center at the University of Florida has developed a guide with practical strategies that work for helping students of all ages who may be struggling with an at-home learning task.  Families may find these strategies useful when helping children complete various reading, math, and/or behavioral tasks at home. View the Family Guide to At-Home Learning

Building Independence at Home

Are you looking to help your child do more things on their own? Want to know how to teach this?  Check out Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Distance Videos on Response Forms: Building on Independence on the ABA Website.

Simplify Home Life

Simplifying a child’s daily life is one of the best ways to restore a sense of balance in parenting.  By simplifying their toys and environment, their schedules, and the sense of rhythm and regularity in the home, you allow them the grace to be a child.  You allow your connection and your values to gain purpose, to rise above the noise of acceleration and excess, the drive for “the next big thing” to do, have, or attain.  Simplifying acknowledges how a child comes to understand the world -- through play and interaction, not through adult concerns and information.  The pressure is off when childhood is no longer seen as an “enrichment opportunity” but instead as an unfolding experience - an ecology - with its own pace and natural systems.”  (excerpted from Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, p.165,  Kim John Payne with Lisa M. Ross)

Frequently Asked Questions

What will my child’s weekly schedule look like? 

Students will receive virtual instruction 5 days per week. The week will include 4 days of live, face-to-face online instruction with teachers Tuesday through Friday. Mondays will be used for independent learning with some students identified for teacher-directed specialized instruction/intervention.

At the elementary level, students will receive real-time, interactive instruction Tuesday through Friday. The elementary day will also consist of additional small group instruction, intervention supports, and independent learning activities assigned to students.

Middle and high school students will follow an A/B block schedule. 

Teachers will have planning time on Mondays and will provide intervention supports for selected students that we hope can be provided in-person.

Individual schools will communicate with parents regarding schedules and other information to prepare for online learning. 

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the:

August 27, 2020

August 27, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) publishes a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updated DSS information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Return to School – Supports for Students with Disabilities

Check out the FCPS web page for information on distance learning supports for students with disabilities. This page covers a wide range of topics including information for parents of students grades PreK-12 accessing instruction in school-based programs as well as information around nontraditional school programs, public day and career center programs, homebound and home-based instruction, and multi-agency services.    Special education procedural information including virtual IEP information for parents is also included.  Lastly, the website includes a list of contacts organized by topic, a link to the special education Roles and Responsibilities, and the special education Return to School FAQs.  

Summer Reading

There are many online resources with eBooks for you and your children to read as we finish up summer.   Many students used MyOn during the year and it is still available for you and your children to use during the summer (this resource requires log-on information) at www.myon.com.  This program and many more are available on the FCPS Library Resources website.  If you don’t remember your password for MyOn or the other resources which are available, you can contact the librarian at your child’s school.

Virtual Attendance

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) requires all schools to take attendance during virtual learning this school year. FCPS must take attendance Mondays through Fridays, unless there is a student holiday on a Monday. Students aged 5-18 must attend school every day school is in session, unless they are excused from school. To support this, parents must report absences to school each time the student may be absent.

If my child has a chronic illness, and may require a long-term absence, what should I do?
Contact the school office with that information. The office staff person will ensure that the information is provided to appropriate personnel, such as a public health nurse, administrator, school counselor, or social worker for follow up with you. Keep the front office updated on any changes to your student’s medical status. The school team may develop a plan which includes alternatives to the normal schedule, as your student’s needs require.

Frequently Asked Question

Q:  As a parent of a child with special needs, I am anxious about school beginning online this fall.  What can I do to help my family adjust and thrive?

A:  We all want what is best for our children.  But during times of greater challenge and stress, it is important not to forget that we must take good care of ourselves in order to be fully present and able to take care of our children.  One of the silver linings of this time is that it is causing us to adjust our thinking and our routines.  Consider what is truly essential, and what can be set aside (at least temporarily).  What gives you and your family feelings of joy and peace?

For practical tips that will help you embrace self-care while also supporting your child’s needs, take a look at the following article by a health psychologist, Self-Care Tips for Parents and Caregivers from a Health Psychologist.

Virtual Individualized Education Program Information Documents

There are three Virtual Individualized Education Program (IEP) information documents (Early Childhood, Elementary, and Middle and High) available to parents of students with disabilities on the Return to School–Supports for Students with Disabilities site. The purpose of these documents is to provide information for parents of students with disabilities on the process of amending a student’s IEP or holding an annual or initial IEP meeting during the virtual start to school. Many student IEPs may be able to be implemented as already written and others may need amendment. You may access these documents on the Return to School–Supports for Students with Disabilities site.  

JLARC’s K-12 Special Education Study and Parent Survey

Through December 2020, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), at http://jlarc.virginia.gov/, the non-partisan research and oversight agency of the Virginia state legislature, is conducting a study of Virginia’s K-12 special education services. In addition to other topics, the study team is reviewing Virginia’s special education identification and eligibility determination processes, inclusion of students with disabilities in academic and extracurricular experiences, individualized education program (IEP) development and implementation, and the state’s special education dispute resolution services, such as due process hearings and state complaint services.

As part of this research, the JLARC researchers are seeking input from many different stakeholders, including parents of K-12 students with disabilities, special education teachers, representatives of local special education advisory committees, division-level special education administrators, state-level special education administrators, and special education staff in other states, and national experts.

To ensure that JLARC researchers are able to obtain input from parents of K-12 students with disabilities across the state—who are key stakeholders for the study—they have developed an online survey. The survey is designed for parents, foster parents, and legal guardians of students who have received K-12 special education services at any time over the past three years.

The survey will be available through Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

In English:
To complete the survey, please use the following link: http://survey.jlarc.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=d045c54ad7de4326a05ac43eb4079634
If you have questions, please contact JLARC staff at SpecialEdSurvey@jlarc.virginia.gov.

En Español:
La encuesta de JLARC para los padres de los alumnos en Virginia que reciben los servicios de educación especial está disponible en español. Para acceder a más información y completar la encuesta, visite http://survey.jlarc.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=3f72909b2fd04ae3b3c58b37d78b58d9
Para preguntas acerca de la encuesta, por favor comuníquese con SpecialEdSurvey@jlarc.virginia.gov.

If you would prefer to access the survey from the JLARC’s website, you can follow this link: http://jlarc.virginia.gov/parent-survey.asp

Contact Information

If parent(s) or guardian(s) need further assistance, please reach out to the:

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Department of Special Services (DSS) publishes a regular electronic newsletter to provide you with updated DSS information, tips and ideas to support you and your family during Distance Learning.

Technology Resources for Families

(Reprint from August 31, 2020 News You Choose

Technology Support for Families
Access videos and resources to help your student in the virtual learning environment on the Technology Support for Families webpage.

New Virtual Learning Tech Tips Videos
New videos have been posted on the virtual learning playlist. They include tips on signing in, locating assignments, and submitting assignments in Google Classroom, as well as how to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (BBCU). Go to the Virtual Learning - Tech Tips playlist.

Information Regarding Community Work Experience (CWE) during the Covid 19 Pandemic

Many of our secondary students with individualized education programs (IEPs) are enrolled in career development instruction, which includes classes such as Work Awareness and Transition (WAT) and Education for Employment for the Office (EFEO) as well as Davis and Pulley Career Centers and the Secondary Transition to Employment Programs (STEP).  The 100% virtual start to the school year will also extend to our students’ community-based work experiences until reassessments of work availability and conditions are made prior to the end of the first quarter.  This decision is based primarily on the health and safety of our students, their families, and FCPS staff, as well as the ability of our employer partners to provide student access to work sites throughout Fairfax County.  

Last school year, 1,105 students enrolled in these programs and classes, completed work experiences at 398 employer work sites.  Even in cases where a few employers are willing to receive students this fall, continuity and student equity across programs is extremely important. We will continue to work toward the eventual return to work sites.  In the meantime, the teachers in these programs have been given work-readiness and transition curricula and work-based learning resources to support virtual instruction, and staff training is on-going. 

Considerations for Setting up a Functional Workspace at Home

Establishing a designated workspace when learning from home may help support participation in school-based activities.  When selecting a location and set-up, you may want to consider the following:

How is your child sitting?
Seating plays an important role in supporting students’ body position during a desk or tabletop task. Consider the following:

  • If the chair being used is too big, consider using a footrest or a heavy box under feet or placing a pillow behind his/her back to provide adequate support
  • If the chair is too low, consider having your child sit on a booster seat or chair cushion so they can comfortably rest their arms on the table when engaging in a task such as writing
  • Consider placing the laptop/monitor on a stack of books at eye level when not typing or using the touch pad
  • Consider flexible seating options for other learning activities, such as prone (lying on his/her belly), standing, or lying on his/her back with a pillow under knees
  • Consider integrating movement and stretching breaks between seated activities

What can they see and hear?
Visual and auditory distractions may make it more difficult for a student to pay attention and concentrate on learning activities. Consider the following:

  • Turning off electronic devices that are not being used for learning (i.e. tv)
  • Try positioning a desk or table to reduce visual distractions; if working at a kitchen table, consider choosing a seat at the table that reduces distractions
  • Consider using a tri-fold cardboard divider to create a “cubby”; this can also be created from an empty cardboard box
  • If possible, remove distracting items from the workspace during worktime (i.e. toys)
  • Consider using the 20/20/20 rule to help reduce eye strain:  Every twenty minutes, look 20 ft away, for 20 seconds
  • Consider lighting sources such as natural light and task lighting (i.e. gooseneck lamp); blinds or curtains may help reduce glare when using a computer
  • Consider using headphones at times to reduce distraction from voices or noise in the home or focus on a teacher’s voice during synchronous learning

Can he/she easily find the materials needed for learning?
Organizing materials and supplies and choosing a location that is easy for your child to access can help support his/her participation in learning activities. Consider the following:

  • Place materials/supplies on a small bookshelf or in plastic drawers next to or nearby the work area; consider labeling locations/bins with words or pictures so your child can find and return materials to a consistent place
  • If using a kitchen table for learning activities, consider placing materials in a box or basket that can be brought to the table each day and put away when learning activities are finished
  • If using containers to organize supplies, consider if your child is able to open and close containers easily (i.e. plastic bags, zipper pouches, pencil boxes)

Additional resources on setting up a functional workspace at home:

Behavior Support and Resources

Encouraging Positive Behaviors At Home Series presented by Behavior Intervention Services and hosted by Parent Resource Center provides parent training opportunities monthly across a variety of topics in behavior strategies for home. Visit the Parent Resource Center Page for more information or register for the Encouraging Positive Behaviors At Home Series.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

We can all help to prevent suicide. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs. Do not be afraid to ask about suicidal thoughts. Never take warning signs lightly. Warning signs may include; suicidal threats, giving away prized possessions, increased risk taking, increased drug and/or alcohol use and a preoccupation with death or dying. When talking to your child about suicide, remain calm, ask directly about suicide, provide constant supervision, remove any means of self-harm from the home, and provide reassurance that there is help. If you are concerned about your child, seek help from school or community mental health resources and provide constant supervision to your child. School counselors, psychologists and social workers are available to provide support at every Fairfax County Public School.

Additional resources on suicide prevention:

Frequently Asked Question:

Q: My child has a 504 Plan.  With schools opening virtually, how will the Plan be followed and monitored?

A:  If you have questions about your child’s 504 Plan, please reach out to the school counselor to discuss Plan implementation during virtual learning.  In many cases, 504 Plans as currently written may be effectively put into place and adapted to online learning.  School staff will be reviewing your child’s Plan and should be in touch with you during the first days and weeks of school to ensure that your child’s needs are being met.