City to bring back in-person special education services next week

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The Department of Education is bringing back some in-person therapeutic services for students in individualized education programs (IEPs) beginning the week of Monday, July 13, months after they were put on hold when schools transitioned to remote learning due to COVID-19.

The services the DOE will begin to offer over the summer include related services (which accounts for speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy) and transition support services (consultations for students with disabilities ages 21 and over, aging out of the school system to provide support and guidance for postsecondary education and career).

The DOE will offer the transition support services in September at specified DOE sites across all five boroughs, so they can have time to complete facilities work and ensure students receive approximately five weeks of their mandated program in person.

In-person speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy services will be offered in 10 to 15 Regional Enrichment Center (REC) sites under strict health and safety protocols that have been reviewed by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for students and providers. Some of the protocols include daily deep cleanings, cleanings in between each session, one room per provider and personal protective equipment.

Families will be scheduled individually to come in at specific times by appointment to ensure minimal contact or interaction and proper distancing. MetroCards will be available for families with students attending related service sites, and families will also have access to travel reimbursement.

The in-person services will be completely optional, and the DOE will continue to offer services remotely.

For students attending transition support services, the DOE will have staff working with them and their families to ensure that postsecondary plans are in place, supporting access to remote work-based learning as well as college and career readiness activities.

The transition to remote learning and teletherapy left many parents with special needs children — there are more than 200,000 in the city’s school system — in stressful positions, as many had to take on the role of the sole therapist for their children that was often taken care of by several professionals.

“This pandemic has been especially difficult for children with disabilities, and we are working non-stop to ensure they have the support they need,” DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson stated. “This summer, we are excited to offer in-person occupational, speech and physical therapy to students with disabilities with yearlong individualized education programs. Health and safety is our priority, and we have worked with the Department of Health to ensure our school sites follow strict health and safety protocols so our students have access to these beneficial in-person services.”

The DOE has been working with the Department of Health to deliver safe, in-person special education-related services. On June 15, they began by sending families surveys to gauge the interest for in-person services.

Families can submit an updated online survey as described in the letter and/or email they were sent, or contact the special education office at specialeducation@schools.nyc.gov for more information.

The DOE’s plan to offer core instructions for students with disabilities and general education students this summer will take place remotely, as previously announced.

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