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COVID-19 Special Education Resources

A Message to Parents, Teachers, and Administrators Supporting Students Who Receive Special Education Services:

The COVID19 national crisis has created conditions in our educational system that no one could have planned for or predicted. Parents are managing their own work from home arrangements, maintaining work schedules out of the home and supporting their own children’s learning while they are out of school. Teachers and school district administrators are all working very hard to support students and families during this crisis and ensure students do not experience learning loss. There have been many who are asking questions about the delivery, management and administration of special education services and seeking answers to questions for which guidance has slowly emerged. In an effort to share the best available information the RIDE IDEA Team will be updating the Special Education COVID19 section of the web site regularly. Please check this section often for updates.

Resources for Special Education Teachers

Special Education Teacher Resources

  • Teachers of Students with Complex Needs (TCSN) Community of Practice (CoP) - Meeting 5: Data Collection (June, 1 2020) – In this recording, the CoP explores RIDE’s special education guidance during distance learning/ESY and circled back to alternatives for learning. The group then focused on data collection during distance learning/ESY and how to ensure quality data points in online environments. We then discussed how to collaborate with families in order to obtain accurate data. Below is a video recording of the session, the presentation, and resources to gather quality data points for students during distance learning.
  • Teachers of Students with Complex Needs (TCSN) Community of Practice (CoP) - Meeting 4: Summer Fun with Field Trips (May 20, 2020) – In this recording, the CoP explores special education procedures guidance during distance learning and how to incorporate field trips into programming for ESY. Tips on how to create accessible presentations and videos were shared along with different field trip ideas. It is encouraged for special educators to contribute to the bank of videos of various places throughout communities in Rhode Island. There are tips on how to preserve confidentiality while creating these videos along with how to access the statewide bank of field trips. Below is a video recording of the session, the presentation, and the list of field trip ideas to engage students this summer.
  • Teachers of Students with Complex Needs (TCSN) Community of Practice (CoP) - Meeting 3: Social Emotional Learning (April 29, 2020) – In these recordings, the CoP explores special education procedures guidance during distant learning and tools are shared for social emotional learning, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Resources that were provided for social emotional learning focused on calming and movement strategies. Below are the elementary and secondary video recordings along with the materials used and generated during the session.
  • Teachers of Students with Complex Needs (TCSN) Community of Practice (CoP) - Meeting 2: Family Collaboration (April 17, 2020) – In these recordings, the CoP explores special education procedures guidance during distant learning and tools are shared to engage a variety of families. Teachers then spoke about their challenges and successes in working with families. Below are the elementary and secondary video recordings along with the presentation used during the meetings.
  • Teachers of Students with Complex Needs (TSCN) Community of Practice (CoP) - Initial Meeting (April 2, 2020) – This audio recording of our initial meeting began our conversation about what is working for teachers. Teachers provided a variety of options for each other. We discussed challenges and what resources are still needed for teachers. Teachers also collaborated to provide a list of resources that they have been using since the transition to distance learning. We will provide grade span meetings for this group on April 17, 2020. More information to follow.
  • Episode 5: Supporting students with significant needs in online environments - Practical Access Podcast. In this episode UCF Professors Drs. Rebecca Hines and Lisa Dieker share practical ideas to consider for students who have significant disabilities in an online world.  They provide specific ideas to consider for students with significant needs and how to use the resources of multiple adults of found in the traditional classroom to support these students.

    See all Practical Access Podcasts from Drs. Lisa Dieker and Rebecca Hines, professors at the University of Central Florida in the College of Community Innovation and Education, where they take a fun and informal look at "practical" situations from teachers, parents, and people with differing abilities during this time of online learning.
  • Planning for Equitable Virtual Instruction The linked resource was developed by the Rhode Island Intensive Math Intervention Project — a RIDE-funded initiative housed at the American Institutes for Research. The purpose of this resource is to support LEA personnel with planning virtual instruction that takes into consideration student access to technology, as well as instruction within virtual settings that considers the needs of multiple types of learners. There is a completed lesson plan example as a part of Step 2. In Step 3, you will find a blank template to complete for your own use.
  • NCSI Educator Resources to Support Remote Learning: This Padlet contains a section for Students with Disabilities with resources designed specifically for meeting their learning needs as well as a section on Best Practices for Remote/Online Learning with supports from psychologists and ideas for scaffolding.
  • A library of resources on Distance Learning and special education is available from National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI)
  • Mapping Access, Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID19: All of the Mapping Access suggestions come from individuals with differing abilities.
  • CAST is offering free webinars on access and distance education.
  • Teaching Special Education Online During COVID-19 from the Council for Exceptional Children includes a recorded webinar, information on best practices, and links to other resources.
  • Google Drive folder created by the Regional Transition Coordinators to help organize the multitude of resources that have been circulating. The Drive folder has been split into National Secondary Resources and Peer to Peer Resources. National Secondary Resources contains a listing of resources from our national partners. The Peer to Peer Resources folder contains resources created and shared by RI Teachers of Life Skills Network members (TLS). These resources are informal and have been included due to anecdotal evidence and success by fellow educators. Email Kerri Collins at kcollins@westbaycollaborative.org with any resources to share.
  • Supporting Executive Functioning for Distance Learning — This resource, created by the MTSS technical assistance partners at West Bay Collaborative, is broken into the following sections: Resources on Executive Functioning and Helping Students who Struggle with Executive Functioning, broken down by level - Elementary, Middle School and High School).
  • Maintaining Connections, Reducing Anxiety While School is Closed from Jessica Minahan includes a number of actionable steps to maintain connections, reduce anxiety, give students a sense of control, and teach emotional regulations while school buildings are closed. 
  • Do2Learn is a gathering for free resources for teachers of students with significant needs in K-8 setting. Topics include communication skills, social skills, behavior management, academics, picture cards, etc.
  • Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) — DLM has gathered resources for students to engage in while at home. The activities align with essential elements and target math, reading, writing, and science.
  • Supports for students Significant Disabilities [Google Doc]: Here is a routine that is broken down by subjects, skills, virtual activities, and technology-free activities for students K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. The activities are scheduled into Morning, Afternoon, and Evening. Supports for Students with Significant Disabilities [PDF]
  • Use Talking Points to improve communication with parents that speak different languages.
  • Distance Learning for Special Education, organized by Kansas Dept. of Ed., has a number of Online Resources by grade span and by topic, including behavior and communication supports, motor activities, schedules, social supports and social narratives, and more.


  • The State Educational Technology Director's Association (SETDA) has:
    • Created a Coalition for eLearning that has had thousands of visitors, and was mentioned in numerous publications. They also provide ways for special educators to create accessible documents and other educational materials.
    • Partnered with EdWeb for the public professional learning community, Essential Elements for eLearning.
    • Offered a number of webinars through that partnership, including an IEP focused event that broke the internet with more than 9,000 registered participants! You can find archived and upcoming webinars on the Coalition Webinar page, along with other relevant news items.
  • The National Center on Accessible Educational Materials is a great resource for creating Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) and additional sources for teachers. Topics of resources include Navigating AEM, Supporting Learners, Policies and Systems and Creating AEM. There are also a variety of free webinars offered for educators.
  • TechACCESS has collected Assistive Technology and Augmentative Alternative Communication Resources for home. This provides an organization of materials for a variety of students with significant disabilities. Topics Include: Resources on the Corona Virus for all, Webinars, Tutorials, and Websites for AT, Webinars and Tutorials for AAC, Supports and Resources for Visual Impairments, Home Activity Ideas, and Subscriptions and Tools.
  • Making Audio and Video Media Accessible — Accessible audio and video is essential for people with disabilities, and benefits organizations. Depending on the content of your media, it might need captions/subtitles (a text version of the audio that is shown synchronized in the media player), a transcript (a separate text version of the audio), audio description of visual information (usually an additional audio stream that describes important visual content), or other accessibility functionality/features.
  • How to Make Your Presentations Accessible to All — This page helps you make your presentations, talks, meetings, and training accessible to all of your potential audience, including people with disabilities and others.
  • Accessibyte is offering free access to their full range of apps which can be accessed from school or home, on Chromebook, iPad, Mac, Windows or Android Devices. Each app has visual and audible accessibility built right into the browser to support students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, have reading difficulties or just want something fun and different. The Teacher Dashboard makes it easy to create content that’s accessible to blind and visually impaired students. Just type or paste classroom material and send it to students. Their software will apply visual enhancements and full audible functioning based on their individual settings.
  • American Sign Language Stories and Videos — Here is list of sign language stories and videos as a resource for students during distance learning.
  • Described and Captioned Media Program continues to support families and educators with free Remote Learning resources. Families and educators who have at least one student with a disability can register for free membership and access over 8,000 captioned and described educational videos. Teachers can create Student Accounts, group students together in Classes, and assign videos to students and Classes. Users can instantly choose “captioned” or “described” with the Language/Accessibility button found under the video player. Many accessible videos are available without a membership and can be viewed by anyone without registering.

Reading/ELA Support

  • Flyleaf Publishing — Free decodable readers online.
  • Heggerty At Home E-Learning — Free phonemic awareness support videos and lesson plans to assist with e-learning.
  • Lalilo Phonics — This early phonics and comprehension is engaging, easy to use, and being offered for free during this time of online learning on tablets, iPads, and computers.
  • Dyslexia Academy is offering one month of free access.

Resources for Special Education Paraprofessionals

Online Professional Development Resources

  • BRIDGE-RI (https://mtssri.org/) provides a number of on-line learning courses for educators, including paraprofessionals, in RI.  These free courses cover a number of topics and typically take 1-2 hours to complete.
  • The IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University provides a number of free resources and professional development modules on a variety of topics. The Resource Locator lists topics and types of resources available.
  • The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder offers free online modules on their 27 Evidence-Based Practices. Each module is broken into individual lessons to guide the individual’s learning.
  • The Idaho Training Clearinghouse has developed online instructional modules and professional materials to either provide or supplement district level training. Topics include Basics of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Implementing Evidence-Based Instructional Practices, Understanding Behavior, among others.
  • NKCES Online Trainings is offering their behavior strategies training modules free through June 30th. Each training links to a short video, series of support materials, and an end of training quiz.
  • Autism Internet Modules offers free high-quality information and professional development for anyone who supports, instructs, works with, or lives with someone with autism. Each module guides the individual through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, a glossary, and much more. Modules are listed online and individuals can create an account to access the material.
  • The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has developed and published a set of High Level Practices (HLPs) and an accompanying Video Series. The videos highlight research-based practices that are captured in settings that resonate with diverse contexts, subject areas, grade-levels, and student needs.
  • Online PD opportunities for paraprofessionals was posted on the CEC website
  • Washington State Department of Education has online learning modules related to Social and Emotional Learning and trauma. This is free and open to anyone, anywhere. In order to begin, the user must create an account and log in. The modules were developed in collaboration with the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Although there are references Washington State SEL Standards, which of course are not the same as RI SEL Standards, the general information related to SEL applies to all.
  • The National Center for Innovation & System Improvement (NCISI) provides technical assistance, training and education to school districts, human service organizations, behavioral health providers and workforce development entities. As trainers and practitioners, our goal is to provide targeted interventions that are practical, useful and immediately applicable.


Barrington created a structured 8-day plan for professional development focused on Autism for their paraprofessionals.

Resources for Early Childhood Special Education

Resources for Related Service Providers

Resources for Parents

Tips for Parents During COVID-19 Crisis

Distance Learning is a way of learning remotely without being in regular face-to-face contact with a teacher in the classroom. Rhode Island has implemented Distance Learning to provide access to a student’s education during COVID-19. Distance Learning is the equivalent of a school day and attendance is required. It’s important that schools and families work together to create successful learning environments.

  • Stay Connected
    School districts have created distance learning plans. It's important that parents and teachers set up a consistent, proactive schedule to communicate regularly in order to work through concerns and adjust plans as needed.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make it a priority to create a support network.
  • Communicate Family Needs
    In these unprecedented times it is important to be honest and forthcoming. Parents are encouraged to communicate to their child’s teacher the existing home environment which could include:
    • Parents’ work schedules.
    • Sibling schedules – other educational responsibilities.
    • Other family stressors (i.e. finances, childcare, health concerns of family members). Schools may be able to help families connect with appropriate community resources, such as food banks, health centers, behavioral health supports.
  • Communicate Child Individual Needs   

There is an opportunity for families to observe their child's learning styles, strengths, and needs.  Sharing this information with school staff will be helpful in adjusting plans as needed in these new environments.  Here's what might be helpful:

  • Child’s reactions to various activities (i.e. face-to-face activities, written assignments or daily living activities that incorporate academic skills, need for breaks or movement).
  • Inform school staff of child’s favorite and least favorite home activities. They may be able to incorporate these activities into academics.
  • Changes in child’s behaviors.
  • Reactions to a changing environment.
  • Communicate the time of day that your child is most responsive (morning or afternoon).
  • Ask for flexibility in the tasks, if needed.
  • Expect that this may be challenging for both you and your child.  Remember that this is not a permanent situation and that we'll get through this together!
  • Parents may want to suggest shorter or fewer assignments and let some assignments go at this time. We are all learning as we go forward. Reach out to your child's teachers and share your ideas. Try your best to prioritize and know that even that may be difficult.
  • Organize
    Develop a weekly plan and schedule to include routines and structures for consistency and to balance think time, work time, and playtime for health and well-being.
  • Identify Your School Contacts
    Some students work with numerous people that provide various supports – teacher assistants, speech and language therapists, physical therapist, occupational therapists, and social workers. If all of these people are trying to contact a parent or student, it may be overwhelming to keep communication and schedules organized.  Parents are encouraged to ask for only one or two points of contact from the school to help organize their time and messages.  They can let the school know the best time and method for communication (i.e. text, phone, email).
  • Self-Care and Coping
    Parents are encouraged to be patient with themselves, school staff and their children. Modify daily activities to be realistic and focus on what can be accomplished for that day. Have realistic expectations of yourself and of your child by shifting expectations. Give yourself small breaks from the stress of the situation. Attempt to control self-defeating statements and replace them with more helpful thoughts.
  • Connect Daily Living Activities with Education
    Many daily living activities can be connected to academic skills, such as cooking, sorting laundry, cleaning and organizing a room. Parents might want to consider reinforcing a child’s abilities in these areas as some of these tasks may also function as academic assignments.
  • Strive for Progress, not Perfection
    Students are not expected to know everything that their teacher is giving them for assignments. Struggling to accomplish some tasks is expected and actually is part of the learning process. Your student’s teacher is not expecting the student to have an 100% on every assignment. Allow some struggle for the student in order to achieve long-term goals.

While this is certainly a stressful time, it can also be an opportunity to observe and get closer to your child while understanding more about how your child learns.  Encourage all progress, no matter how small. 

Links to Helpful Resources

RIDE Special Education Call Center

  • The RIDE Special Education Call Center (401-222-8999) is available during this time to aid with questions relating to special education matters. Staff are available for live calls Monday through Friday between the hours of 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 
  • Email inquiries may be submitted to RIDECallCenter@ride.ri.gov.
  • Information is available regarding Dispute Resolution on the RIDE website.
  • Please note that questions relating to distance learning plans may be directed towards a district’s special education office.

Parent Organizations

Special Education Procedures

Special Education Procedural Questions

The purpose of the information on this page is to assist parents, teachers and administrators who support students receiving special education services in Rhode Island schools during the COVID19 crisis.

The US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Special Education Programs has issued the only official policy interpretation documents regarding the implementation of IDEA during the COVID19 crisis:

Parents, teachers and school district administrators are advised to follow the official guidance provided by the US Department of Education in interpreting the laws and regulations governing special education services and timelines.

However, RIDE has received many inquiries about further interpretation of the official guidance offered by the US Department of Education. In the absence of further official guidance, the following information is offered to assist teams in meeting the needs of students during this crisis. The recommendations found in our Recommendations Document (version 4/1/2020) are not regulatory guidance or an interpretation of federal laws, regulations or state regulations, but are information provided to assist the Rhode Island special education community with thoughtful considerations in meeting the needs of students through this challenging crisis.  Additionally, RIDE has produced a Frequently Asked Questions document and a Frequently Asked Questions - Early Childhood Special Education document to assist parents, educators, and administrators.

Virtual IEP Meeting Tip Sheets provides tips on technology, as well as hosting and participating in virtual IEP meetings.

RIDE will continue to provide information and resources through this page in the coming days and weeks and revisions to the information will be made as soon as additional information becomes available.