LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — Anna Smith is a busy mom of four in the Leander Independent School District. Her first grader has autism and a speech impediment. Her 10th grader has autism, scoliosis and was born with no hands.
“My youngest is regressing. I know every other parent on the spectrum, around this six to eight years of age, sees this major regression, and unfortunately my oldest is immune compromised, so we can’t go out and seek those services,” Smith said.
She says Leander ISD has gone above and beyond to help ensure her students don’t fall too far behind. She also helped launch a special education working group in her district.
Every two weeks, parents meet with district administrators to answer every parents’ question and create resources for special education families. On August 1, the group will launch a parent advocate program to help families navigate virtual learning.
“Each campus has a parent representative, and that parent representative is your mentor per se, and the goal is to have those parents be able to provide resources and information to a first time SED [special education] parent who is entering this new world,” Smith said.
Representatives of The Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education (TCASE) say this type of collaboration is critical in helping families. The organization is working closely with districts and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on options to improve individualized learning plans for families like the Smiths.
“There’s discussions about doing hybrid models depending on the needs of the students, and there’s discussions about sending personnel to homes if it is deemed safe,” said Kristin McGuire, Director of Governmental Relations for TCASE.
Additional services could require more funding during a time where budget cuts are happening at school districts across Central Texas. As TEA guidelines continue to change, some parents say there haven’t been specific rules for special education students that address direct services.
So far, the TEA has provided students with a new speech therapy technology.
Currently, the agency is exploring similar agreements for occupational, physical, dyslexia and mental health therapy, as seen in the most recent guidance (see pages 12-15).
A TEA spokesperson tells KXAN “updated information and resources from our Special Populations team is forthcoming.”
KXAN reached out to several districts to find out their updated plans for special education students who require services outside of virtual learning. We are waiting to hear back.