COVID-19 Special Education Resources

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

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the RIDE IDEA Team has been updating resources on this page. As items are added, they will be marked as “New!” documents and resources. We have also retained previously posted resources that remain relevant and useful. 

Resources for Reopening

Virtual Learning - Resources 

Additional 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.
  • 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.
  • library of resources on Distance Learning and special education is available from National Center on Systemic Improvement (NCSI)
  • Do2Learn is a gathering of 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. [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.
  • CAST is offering free resources on access and distance education.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 for 2021-22 school year.
  • Lalilo Phonics — This early phonics and comprehension is engaging, easy to use, and being offered for free on tablets, iPads, and computers.

Online Professional Development Resources

  • BRIDGE-RI ( 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 Reopening 

Additional Resources for ECSE Teachers & Therapists

  • Returning to School: Considerations for Students with the Most Intensive Behavioral Needs  This guide from NCII for families and educators provides practices and strategies along with examples of how they can be implemented through in-person and remote learning.
  • National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has a  Resource Center with information and resources on Returning to School, Service Delivery and Special Education, Mental Health, and for Families and Educators.
  • American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA): Telehealth Resources — Looking for information on whether you can use telehealth in your state and how to incorporate it into practice? AOTA has gathered the resources below to help members navigate this emerging area.
  • American Physical Therapy Association (APTA): Telehealth — Telehealth, the use of electronic communication to remotely provide health care information and services, is gaining more and more attention as providers, patients, and payers all seek more effective and cost-efficient ways to deliver care. Physical therapy is no exception, and while those services have developed mostly in rural areas to accommodate the long distances between patients and providers, telehealth in physical therapy is being considered in other geographic and clinical settings.
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): Telepractice — Telepractice is the application of telecommunications technology to the delivery of speech language pathology and audiology professional services at a distance by linking clinician to client or clinician to clinician for assessment, intervention, and/or consultation. Supervision, mentoring, pre-service, and continuing education are other activities that may be conducted through the use of technology. However, these activities are not included in ASHA's definition of telepractice and are best referred to as telesupervision/distance supervision and distance education. See ASHA’s Practice Portal page on Clinical Education and Supervision for a detailed discussion of telesupervision.
  • Federal Office of Rural Health Policy: Telehealth Programs (HRSA) — The Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT) promotes the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education, and health information services. Telehealth is especially critical in rural and other remote areas that lack sufficient health care services, including specialty care.
  • National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers — These twelve Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) support all states and territories. TRCs have been established to provide assistance, education, and information to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or interested in providing health care at a distance. Their charter from the Office for Advancement of Telehealth is to assist in expanding the availability of health care to rural and underserved populations and their federally funding means the assistance they provide is generally free of charge.

Tips for Parents During Distance Learning 

Distance Learning is a way of learning remotely without being in regular face-to-face contact with a teacher in the classroom.  Distance Learning is the equivalent of a school day and attendance is required any time distance learning is being implemented. 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

    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.  
  • 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 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.

This time 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

  • New Resources for Families Help Multilingual Learners with Disabilities Thrive in Virtual Classrooms Help parents and caregivers in 3 areas:  social stories, augmentative and alternative communications, and what special education services to expect from schools as mandated by students' Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, while students are at home. 
  • Family Guide to At-Home Learning This 2-page interactive family guide from CEEDAR is aligned to the CEC High Leverage Practices for special education.  This guide has practical strategies that work for helping children of all ages who may be struggling with an at-home learning task.  Families may find these strategies useful when helping their children complete various reading, math, and/or behavioral tasks at home. 
  • CASEL Cares - includes Guidelines for Parents and Caregivers with practical suggestions for distance learning and coping with stress and anxiety
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) – A Parent’s Guide to Virtual Learning: For those who are entitled to (and depend upon) specialized instructional services and supports to deal with disabilities, the transition to kitchen table learning is even more challenging. NCLD has created a guide specifically designed for families of children with disabilities.
  • Great – At-home Learning Resources: Great offers multiple family resources for families of students with disabilities both in English and Spanish
  • Common Sense Media - Resources for Families: Commonsense Media has been the leading source of entertainment and technology recommendations for families and schools since 2003 and has a great link with resources for families during the pandemic.

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
  • 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 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 COVID-19 crisis.

Resources for Reopening

Additional Resources

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 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. 

Tips for Facilitating Successful Virtual IEP Meetings During the Pandemic and Beyond - includes a webinar, accompanying Powerpoint slides, and Tips from the Field: Facilitating Successful 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.