Homebound Placement during the Pandemic
Normally, I’m against homebound IEP placement for most students. After all, it is one of the most restrictive placement options. And, it often gets used and abused and IEP students are placed in this “no man’s land” and fall off the radar and get greatly reduced services.
But, these are not normal times. I don’t normally wear a mask to go grocery shopping and change my clothes in the garage afterward (I have a whole procedure set up because my son is high risk).
These are not normal times.
So, for the purposes of this post, it makes many assumptions.
Deciding your Child Needs Distance Learning
- That you have read, studied, and thought about all of your options for your child and public school and you want your child to do at home learning. If not, please read: Should you keep your student at home or send them to school? How to Decide for Fall 2020. You can just come back here afterward.
- Your state does not offer cyber charters, and your school district is not offering a distance-learning option. If they are offering a distance learning option for any gen ed students, they must offer it to all students. (FAPE, y’all!)
- Your child has an IEP and has a placement other than homebound and that is what you want right now.
- As a parent, you recognize that social distancing and other measures may mean that your child’s services look different than they in a regular school building. And, you are willing to negotiate that out with your team for telehealth, compensatory services, etc. Asking for IEP compensatory services is in a different post.
Whew! Ok, still with me? So at the end of all of that, what you’re asking for is an IEP Placement Change. However, this one feels more urgent than other placement changes because there is more at stake than just a lack of progress or IEP regression. So, you want a good strategy in place with a strongly worded letter.
What you need to prove is this:
- Why Homebound is the most appropriate placement for your child at this time
- Why in-school services are inappropriate at this time
Get it? You want to argue for one placement (the pros) and list the cons of the other placement. Plug all the holes of any possible rebuttal.
Request Homebound Instruction or Instruction in the Home
- Look at your state’s current guidance. You don’t want to ask for something that isn’t going to be possible. If proper, safe, social distancing cannot be done in your home, then do not ask for in-person services. Also, you’d have to be very specific in your request. If they send the school OT out to provide services, what’s the point, if she’s going to be around schoolchildren all day anyway? But not all states permit telehealth for every discipline, either. Read, ask.
- Discuss with your doctor. Normally, you all know I’m not a huge fan of this. A letter from your doctor is generally not the way to go. However, again, not normal times. I would try to get two letters, minimum, as to why this placement change is warranted. And have them be from either your general pediatrician or a relevant specialty. A pulmonologist should speak to lung issues, not your neurologist, and so on. A neurologist, however, can speak to your child’s cognitive and processing ability, and how that could be detrimental with an in-person setting.
- Request letters from doctors. An in-person or virtual visit may not be necessary to get a letter. I know some of my son’s team know him well enough and see him frequently enough that it wouldn’t be necessary. Say to them: I need a letter stating your professional opinion as to why my child cannot safely return to school this fall. I don’t want to tell a doctor what to say. But hopefully, this will steer them toward a letter that says “It is my professional opinion that…” instead of “I feel he would be unsafe in returning.”
- Gather your letters. But don’t necessarily send them. Again, you’re going to have to decide on your strategy. You may or may not want to show your whole hand when you request the placement change. You can always end your letter with “I can provide letters supporting this change from his//her medical team.”
- Compose your letter. I am going to list a bunch of sentence starters below. Choose what works for you.
- Reread your letter before sending. Have a stranger read it too, if possible. Grammar, spelling, professionalism, and power words. Remember your IEP email etiquette.
Examples to Request Home Instruction
Ok, in will try to keep these in order, but may not be. Going to number them for those of you reading and taking notes.
Also, placement change is a big deal. Not really appropriate for an IEP no-meet addendum, but we’ll get to that at the end of the letter.
Requesting Home Instruction-Introduction
- Dear IEP team,
- Dear Principal (if you do not have a designated person yet)
- A reminder to not cc the entire planet, only relevant people.
Home Instruction due to Health Issues
But some kids have a 504 plan.
My child has a 504 for “xyz.” During normal times, the 504 can be implemented in the school building. However, due to the pandemic, he needs the accommodation of instruction in the home. (and list the reasons why)
Requesting Home Instruction-What you Want
- I am writing to you about my child “name.”
- I am writing to you about my child “name,” who is a student in your building and had Mrs. ABC last year. (if writing to the principal-my son’s elementary school has 1600 students, I don’t expect him to remember every detail).
- I am requesting an IEP placement change from his current placement to xyz (note: Use power words. I am requesting. Not “I would like to request…” Power.Words.)
- I am requesting an IEP team meeting to discuss “name” placement change and what that would look like once implemented. (Again, power words. I said, “once implemented.” I didn’t say “if implemented.”)
Requesting Home Instruction-List your reasons.
Define your why, but keep it focused on your child, not you. Pick and choose what you need here.
- “Child” would love to return to school this fall, however, due to current circumstances, it’s just not possible for him to do so safely.
- I’ve read the district’s plan for returning to school, and the concerns are XYZ (list them) because they would have (these) potential harmful effects on his health (and list them). Not “my concerns,” take you out of it. It takes practice, but keep it focused on how this is going to affect your child.
- Additionally, his medical team has stated (and list them). Again-power words. Not the “medical team feels.” It’s not about how any of the adults in his/her life feel, it’s about why this is not the appropriate placement right now.
- His father/mother and I have discussed this at great lengths with his medical team this summer, and we have been unable to come up with safe solutions for “child” to return safely at this time. I wish to revisit this issue at the end of each marking period.
- We would like to discuss with the IEP team what distance learning will look like for “child” and if related services can be set up via telehealth (if it applies).
- I can make arrangements to pick up needed materials at the school at monthly intervals (or whatever you’re willing to do).
- List ways your child does not understand the concept of hand washing and/or social distancing. List what attempts you’ve made over the summer.
- List your child’s struggles wearing a mask–what it looks like, what you’ve tried, and how this could possibly endanger other children as well.
- Does your child struggle with boundaries? Things that are not normal or expected? Again, revisit the other post about making this decision, and list what went into that decision making process. See? This is why I gave you a worksheet!
- A bulleted letter is fine. You want to make it clear what will not work with your child at the school building, and how you can avoid those problems by keeping him home. Include transportation, but DO NOT JUST LIST THE BUS! If you do so, they may offer to send a van for just your child. Then what?
Requesting Home Instruction-List your availability.
- I am available to meet by Zoom the following days and times:
- I understand that requesting a placement change is a serious component of the IEP, which is why I have requested an IEP meeting. However, if the team feels an IEP no-meet addendum is appropriate and agreeable, I am in agreement with this. I know it can be tough to make schedules work together.
- Please ensure that for the meeting, an LEA who has the authority to make this decision is present.
Reference the Letters of Support
- I am attaching 173 letters of support from his medical team, and listing their reasons why this could be unsafe for “child.” Another reminder, power words, not “why they feel this could be unsafe.” Facts, no feelings.
- I can provide you with 173 letters of support from his medical team if necessary.
- We have had multiple virtual visits this summer to discuss this issue. This is not a decision we have approached lightly.
As an aside, I bet I could come up with 173 letters if I had too. At least it feels like we see that many specialists sometimes.
Requesting Home Instruction-Your Closing.
- I am sure that we can come up with a plan so that “child” is safe and we can minimize the possibility of regression, even if learning will look different.
- Thank you for your time.
- I will contact you by (give 5 business days if your state or district does not define this) if I have not heard back from you then. The new school year will be here shortly and this needs to get resolved before then.
Whew, we’re done! Now wait, and follow up.
Ask your questions in the group and prepare to kick ass at that virtual IEP meeting.