Special education prepares for virtual learning challenges

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – The pandemic is creating challenges for families and teachers working with special needs students.

Special education teachers rely on hands-on learning techniques to build social and behavioral skills. The experimental learning approach is hard to deliver through a laptop screen.

“It wasn’t enough just to hear my voice sometimes they would have to see me writing it out,” Kendra Pennington, a special education teacher at Myrtle Beach Middle School, said.

Pennington teaches special education students on the less severe side of learning disabilities. Creating an online learning environment continues to be a challenge for special education teachers, families, and students.

“Special educators had to go through all of our IEP’s and add in there we were virtual, and kids still get their accommodations,” Pennington said.

IEPs are the individual education plans listing the services and accommodations for a special education student. Special education teachers are required to meet with each student a certain number of minutes. In the last e-learning semester, some teacher concerns came after students were instructed to check-in if they had a question.

“For example, most of my students get 60 minutes of instruction daily from a special educator. Well, if I had kids that weren’t checking in, they weren’t getting that direct instruction,” Pennington said.

The South Carolina Department of Education said: “IEP’s must reflect the instructional delivery model chosen by the parent so that appropriate special education and related services, supports, accommodations, and modifications are designed to provide meaningful educational benefit (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.”

Information released by state education leaders suggests special education delivery models may be face-to-face, hybrid, virtual-synchronous, or virtual asynchronous.

The department said: “Regardless of the instructional model, students with disabilities retain their right to receive a FAPE and be educated in the LRE.”

Special education teachers are preparing to get creative another semester while trying to build a student’s social and behavioral skills online.

Horry County Schools will hold public comment tomorrow at a school board meeting at 6:00 p.m. Count on News13 for back to school updates.

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