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Virtual learning presents difficulties for students with IEPs

Shelby County Schools are working with students either online, or in person through state-approved targeted services.

SHELBY COUNTY, Ky. — While virtual learning has been an adjustment for students everywhere, it has been particularly difficult for students who have an Individualized Education Program.

Students with IEPs often benefit the most from having in-person, face-to-face instruction, with more individualized instruction — whether that be with speech, physical or occupational therapists, or a co-teacher in a classroom.

Some are still able to get some of that individual attention online, but other students cannot get what they need through a computer.

Eighteen-year-old Ryan Olson is a student at Martha Layne Collins High School in Shelby County. He has autism and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

“He is very set in his routines and when you say go to school, Ryan has a routine that he follows,” his mother Kim Olson said.

But that routine changed in March, and hasn’t gone back to normal since.

“It’s been quite difficult for him when we say go to school and school is on a screen,” Kim said.

Olson is nonverbal and has difficulty with communication. He relies on school for speech therapy, occupational therapy, and the socialization goals of his IEP.

While some students are able to meet with their teachers online one-on-one to work towards their IEP goals, Olson needs that in-person attention.

"It definitely has been a struggle and we do have some students whose goals are unable to be met when they’re at home,” Shelby County Director of Exceptional Services Michelle Oakley said.

Luckily, Olson and some other students in the district are able to go into the school building for targeted services.

Through a state approved plan, students can be in the building for short amounts of time for services outside of traditional classroom instruction.

“It allows us to provide interventions to students who need it, to provide instruction on those IEP goals that we need to, to provide some of those therapies that aren’t appropriate to do virtually," Oakley said.  

It’s a short-term solution until kids can safely get back into school. Teachers are looking forward to seeing their kids’ faces again, and parents like Kim Olson are looking forward to getting back into a routine.

"Number one he loves school, and that’s just his environment to get his education," his mother said.

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