While parents and guardians are normally apprehensive at the start of the school year, this year brings new and never before seen challenges. With the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and guardians are wondering whether to send their children to school or opt for online learning, and if their child will be attending school in-person, what measures are in place to ensure that their child stays safe. These challenges are exacerbated for children with disabilities.

The Ontario Ministry of Education has no comprehensive reopening plan – it is up to each school board to develop its own plan for returning students, including students receiving special education supports and services. It would be best to consult with your school board to see what strategies are being implemented to help students transition back to school.

That being said, no matter what school board your child belongs to, here are some general tips that could be useful to ensure a successful return back to school for a child with a disability:

  1. Contact your child’s school now – don’t wait for the school to contact you! Ideally, you should share your child’s needs with the school before the school year begins, and update them on any changes since the pandemic began. Some factors to consider are:
    • Social interaction;
    • Behaviour;
    • Health and mental health;
    • Learning – such as skills that have been lost or gained;
    • Technology needs – including not having the proper devices for online learning;
    • Remote learning needs – such as issues with virtual platforms; and
    • Needs specific to COVID-19, such as assistance or supports required for social distancing, wearing a mask, or handwashing.
  2. Ask to meet with the child’s teacher, principal or other supports to discuss your child’s needs. Remember that meetings can be held virtually, which provides more flexibility to parents and guardians.
  3. If your child will be attending school in-person, try to coordinate an early visit so that they can get used to their physical surroundings.

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