Special Education Newsletter

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

November 19, 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.

Holiday Planning During a Pandemic

As Thanksgiving approaches, you may be worried about how to safely celebrate with family and friends. Holiday preparations and celebrations will likely look and feel different this year, especially for our children. Talk with your child ahead of time about their expectations. Reassure your child that it is okay to feel sad, disappointed, or even angry about changes in plans or traditions. Take this opportunity to develop new ways to celebrate by brainstorming ideas together, asking your child for their opinions, and researching online for additional inspiration.  With a little extra planning, communication and collaboration, you can help make this year’s holiday celebrations fun and special for you and your loved ones.

Feeling That Fall Fatigue?

Behavior Intervention Services has a quick tip video to help overcome fall fatigue and increase student engagement and stamina. Incorporate these strategies into virtual learning at home to help students stay focused on their tasks and goals. 

Assistive Technology Training Opportunities

During the 2020-2021 school year, Assistive Technology Services (ATS) will be offering training sessions focused on the use of high-end Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.  Participants will learn program basics and maintenance of the devices.  These sessions are open to both staff and parents of students using the specific devices. To register, contact the ATS Resource Teacher who supports your school. November sessions will include the following topics:

  • November 16, 2:30-3:30 Words for Life App - Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Session
  • November 23, 2:30-3:30 Proloquo2Go App - Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Session

Building Coping Skills as a Family

A coping skill is something that helps a person deal with unpleasant feelings such as stress. Learning to cope is a very important skill that takes a lot of practice. Parents and guardians can help children build coping skills. Brainstorm as a family a toolbox of coping skills, so when someone in the family needs to access a “tool” to cope, a list is readily available. What works for one person, may not work for everyone, so it is important to try different coping skills to find what works for each member of the family. Take time to talk about which strategies were helpful or which strategy everyone might try next time a strategy is needed. Some examples of coping skills include exercise, keeping a gratitude journal, talking with positive people in your life such as friends, family and teachers, deep breathing, listening to or playing music, or engaging in a hobby that you enjoy. View more coping strategy ideas.  

2019-2020 Parent Involvement Survey (Reminder)

Each school year the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is required to report to the U.S. Department of Education the "Percent of parents with a child receiving special education services who report that schools facilitated parent involvement as a means of improving services and results for children with disabilities." 

Your participation in this survey will help VDOE collect additional information to identify training needs related to the special education processes.  The VDOE will use the results of this survey to improve parental involvement in the special education process and improve outcomes for all students within the Commonwealth.  It is important to note that your responses are recorded anonymously and cannot be personally linked to your child.  Parents who have more than one child receiving special education services should submit one survey for each child receiving services.

When completing this survey you will answer questions designed to cause you to reflect upon your experiences during the 2019-2020 school year.

English Version ---- English Version of 2019-2020 Indicator 8 Parent Survey 

Spanish Version --- Spanish Version of 2019-2020 Indicator 8 Parent Survey

To gather the 2019-2020 School Year data, the Indicator 8 Parent Survey will be collected through December 18, 2020.

Students with Intensive Support Needs

Additional information has been included in the second bullet below to help clarify the criteria for Students with Intensive Support Needs to return to in-person, cohort learning as part of Group 5:

  • 50% or more of the student’s core content courses (i.e. core math, core English/language arts, core history/social science and core science classes) provided in special education settings;
  • Instructionally, student functions multiple grades below current grade level and 50% or more of instruction is modified to bridge the gap between the student’s baseline knowledge and course standard with the expectation that the student will subsequently meet the standard;
  • AND the student meets one or more of the following:
    • Comprehensive needs across academic areas
    • Student has a primary disability of intellectual disabilities, learning disability, Autism, or multiple disabilities
    • Reading and writing scores below the 10th percentile on standardized assessments compared to same-aged peers
    • Deficits in adaptive skills, social communication, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors
    • Difficulty with working memory
    • Difficulty with receptive and/or expressive language
    • Has additional adult supervision throughout the school day in all areas of the building

Principals have been directed to invite students who meet the criteria to return to in-person instruction as part of Group 5.  Please reach out to your school principal if you have questions regarding the criteria described above and whether your child meets this criterion.

Additional information is available on the FCPS public website links below.

Contact Information

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

Archived Newsletters

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.

September 25, 2020

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

Contact

Specific course, assignment, or learning resource

Teacher

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.

October 14, 2020

October 14, 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.

Updated Webpage for DHH (Deaf/Hard of Hearing)

Virtual Learning Tool Supports
Technology support videos are available in American Sign Language (ASL), Cued Speech, and Spanish from FCPS Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) Services.

Audiology Services
Audiology Services offers distance learning tips and device support for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been observed nationally in October, bringing light to the issue of domestic violence and its impact on victims, survivors and families. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence by a partner within their lifetime. If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship, there is help. You can support a friend or family member who is being abused in many ways. Learn how to support friends or family members who are being abused by calling the Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services 24-Hour Hotline at 703-360-7273. If you are in danger, call 911. Individuals who are concerned that a child is being abused, should call Fairfax County Child Protective Services at 703-324-7400. For additional support for your child, you can also contact the counselor, social worker or psychologist at your school.

Return-To-Learn Tips for Special Education Parents

Discuss and plan the changes in your child's daily routine that will happen once in person school starts. You can even begin practicing your new schedule, focusing on morning and evening routines, and begin implementing them now well in advance of the first day. Consider having your child practice wearing a face mask for extended periods of time to become more comfortable and familiar with long term usage.

Parent FAQs

FCPS is so grateful to parents and caregivers who have been providing tremendous support to their children during this challenging time.  While the school year has been in full swing for several weeks now, you may continue to have questions about distance learning, assessment, technology, or a host of other school-related topics.  Find answers to FCPS parents’ frequently asked questions.

October 22, 2020

October 22, 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.

Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) Update

For students in grades 3-11 who are being instructed in the Aligned Standards of Learning (ASOL), the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) will occur for the 2020-2021 school year.  The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) recognizes the current educational situation and is aware some students may be accessing instruction through an online format.  Therefore, VDOE will be providing flexibility in collecting evidence for VAAP for the 2020-2021 school year.

Preparing for School Routines: Priming

Priming is a strategy to help students preview situations before they occur and helps events become more predictable. Priming can occur at home or in the classroom. Some students, who need routine and predictability, are more successful when they are prepared for what’s coming. It is most effective when it is built in as a part of the student’s routine. Priming supports the behavioral and academic success of students. Positive reinforcement can be incorporated into school and home routines when the student is successful with priming.

Priming helps to:

  1. Promote student success.
  2. Become familiar with the materials/expectations.
  3. Provide predictability about the information or activity to help reduce frustration.

Elementary Priming Tools

  • Visual Routines
  • Checklists
  • Social Scripts

Secondary Priming Tools

  • Checklists
  • Agendas
  • Student Schedule
  • Written routines

“COVID Fatigue”

Given the level of uncertainty and the many changes we have had to adjust to over the past several months, you may be feeling symptoms of “COVID Fatigue.”  COVID fatigue can include feelings of low mood, exhaustion, and increasing tendencies to engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors.  You may feel burned out or depleted.  If you or your loved ones are experiencing these sorts of feelings, there are ways to cope:

  • Recharge using mindfulness practices
  • Prioritize movement and physical activity
  • Accept that life will continue to be challenging for some time
  • Engage in activities that are satisfying and meaningful to you

View additional tips on coping during the pandemic

FCPS Wellness Conference

The FCPS 7th Annual Mental Health and Wellness Conference was virtual this year. The conference featured multiple keynote speakers from across the country who addressed social emotional learning and resiliency. FCPS continued the partnerships with Kaiser Permanente, INOVA, and Our Minds Matter. INOVA hosted the Act on Addiction Summit. Our Minds Matter hosted two sessions for students. They provided great strategies for self-care and mindfulness. All virtual sessions were recorded and are available on the YouTube Playlist for the 2020 FCPS Mental Health and Wellness Conference

November 5, 2020

November 5, 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.

Behavior Intervention Services

We know how valuable predictability can be for our students, especially as families start to prepare for students to return to in-person learning. Check out this quick tip video that highlights a few strategies to help students get comfortable with wearing a mask and social distancing: Preparing for Returning to In-Person Tips for Parents/Guardians

Having Conversations About Current Events

Discussing current events provides opportunities for learning as well as challenges to the well-being of students, staff, and our community. Having conversations with your child about the things that they may see on the news or hear their friends discuss is important and valuable. Start by asking what your child already knows about a specific topic and follow their lead. It is also beneficial to share with your child that you are available to answer questions. If you don’t have all of the answers that is okay. Discussion topics are a personal decision and their age and development should be taken into account. Tell the truth about a topic, but share only as much as they need to know. There are also times that it is important to limit what they read and watch. As a parent you can set limits so that they are not constantly exposed to information that may be inaccurate or bothersome. Be sure to watch for stress related to things going on in their environment, especially looking for changes in their behavior, excessive worrying, or fear of being around others. If you are concerned about your child, remember that you can reach out to your child’s school counselor, psychologist or social worker. These resources can be located on the school website.

Emotional Literacy:  Using Feeling Faces

The Feeling Faces Visual Cards can be used to assist children in learning emotional literacy.  Understanding their feelings and the feelings of others is an important skill that young children must learn.  These visuals can be used in a variety of ways to support children’s emotional literacy and vocabulary.

Balancing Your Child’s Needs

As a parent with a special-needs child, you may be feeling additional pressures to ensure that you are providing appropriate support for learning in the home.

As you strive to assist your child, the following tips may come in handy:

  • If there is another adult in the home who can assist with supporting your child during distance learning, set a schedule for each of you so that you are able to shift gears at certain times, to allow you time to address other responsibilities, as well.
  • It is likely that you or another adult will not always be immediately available to observe your child throughout the synchronous online instruction.  Instead, plan on checking in when you can, and let your child know when you see that they are paying attention and engaged in their work.
  • Partner with your child’s teacher.  Ask for feedback on their day-to-day learning, and make sure that you follow up by praising your child for their efforts.

For more ideas about how to take care of yourself and also support your child’s learning while at home, take a look at the article "How Parents Can Support Children With Special Needs During Distance Learning". This article was written by a parent who is also a school psychologist. 

November 9, 2020

November 9, 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.

On November 16, the following students are scheduled to return to in-person, cohort learning as part of Group 5:

  • Early Head Start (infants and toddlers), PreK (three and four year old students), Kindergarten
  • Students with Intensive Support Needs who meet the following criteria
    • 50% or more of the student’s core content courses (i.e. core math, core English/language arts, core history/social science and core science classes) provided in special education settings;
    • Instructionally, student functions multiple grades below current grade level and 50% or more of instruction is modified;
    • AND the student meets one or more of the following:
      • Comprehensive needs across academic areas
      • Student has a primary disability of intellectual disabilities, learning disability, Autism, or multiple disabilities
      • Reading and writing scores below the 10th percentile on standardized assessments compared to same-aged peers
      • Deficits in adaptive skills, social communication, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors
      • Difficulty with working memory
      • Difficulty with receptive and/or expressive language
      • Has additional adult supervision throughout the school day in all areas of the building
  • Vision Program at Robinson Secondary School and Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) Programs at Canterbury Woods Elementary School, Frost Middle School, and Woodson High School (students with 50 percent or more of core content areas in special education settings)

On November 30, the following students are scheduled to return to in-person, cohort learning as part of Group 6:

  • Grades 1-2
  • Davis & Pulley Career Centers – Students who are part of the class of 2021 and students who have experienced significant challenges accessing virtual instruction