Superintendent Updates: Ensuring Student Success
  • This is part of a series of posts about school, special education and COVID-19 updates. As the superintendent of Special School District, my number one priority during these difficult times is to make sure our students, families and staff have the information they need to better support all of the day-to-day schooling, programming and planning. Please share your feedback and ideas for upcoming topics that you’d like to know more about by using Let’s Talk.

  • Oct. 7, 2020 – Related Services and Telepractice

    Posted by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan on 10/7/2020

    computer and books on desk Many students that SSD serves in partner school districts and in SSD schools receive related services to support their learning, and I know that families have questions about what those services look like in a distance learning environment. 

    In this post, SSD Executive Director of Student Services Alan Wheat shares information about related services and SSD’s plans for providing quality support for all students.

    What are related services?

    According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), related services are transportation and such developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. This includes speech pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy.

    Related services that SSD provides to students across St. Louis County include:

    • Services for hearing impairments
    • Music therapy
    • Social work/counseling
    • Individualized nursing services
    • Occupational therapy
    • Speech therapy
    • Interpreting
    • Orientation/mobility
    • Services for vision impairments
    • Language therapy
    • Physical therapy

    Examples of Needs for Related Services:

    • A student who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and requires support for a learning disability in reading, and who is struggling due to challenges in pronunciation of speech sounds may require speech therapy in addition to support in reading. The need for speech is “related” to the need for support in reading. A speech-language pathologist may need to provide speech therapy so that the child is able to make appropriate progress in the area of reading.

    • A student working on IEP-driven goals in the area of written expression may require related services. Some students have fine motor deficits that impact them and make it difficult to access special education to make progress in writing. This student may require the related support of occupational therapy to make progress in fine motor skills that are interfering with progress on written expression goals.

    Who provides related services?

    At SSD, related services are provided by licensed professional therapists/practitioners. We employ licensed speech-language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, social workers, nurses, interpreters, audiologists and music therapists. They work with the school-based team to provide services designed to assist the student and other educators in making progress toward IEP goals.

    How will SSD provide related services during closure?

    SSD will provide related and itinerant services via telepractice for virtual services. Telepractice is a delivery model that has emerged as a way to create access to services for individuals in more rural areas and is now adopted across the world.

    Telepractice consists of distance learning through live virtual instruction, lessons, activities and consultation. Providers will establish a schedule of services based on the services indicated in the IEP.

    Telepractice can provide both direct and indirect services at a distance through asynchronous or synchronous delivery.

    • Asynchronous (accessed at any time): The ability to instruct or communicate without meeting at the same place. Examples are transmissions of voice clips, email communication, independent learning activities and viewing recorded videos. 
    • Synchronous (accessed at a scheduled time): The ability to instruct or communicate in real time. Examples include video conferencing, teleconferencing, live chatting, and live-streamed videos and lessons.

    Will students get all of their related services?

    Related and itinerant services in a distance learning format will be provided to the greatest extent possible. The distance learning services will be provided comparably to the services provided when face-to-face learning is occurring. For most students, related services are not provided on a daily basis. Our services during closure will be based on individualized needs documented in the IEP. In many cases, this will be most of the minutes on the IEP.

    How will parents be informed regarding performance on IEP goals?

    Data on performance will be collected and reported within the IEP as is normal in times of in-person attendance. Please note that some student goals may be harder to evaluate and progress monitor for mastery in a distance format. In such cases, providers will observe general progress and indicate the need to observe for mastery on return to in-person services.  

    In addition, staff will be communicating with parents twice a month regarding the distance learning plan. Staff are expected to maintain open lines of communication with families on the changing needs of their children. Families are also able to initiate communication with their team to discuss supports as distance learning continues. 

    Can students with related services request in-person therapy?  

    Some St. Louis County partner districts are allowing students to receive in-person instruction. In some cases, students in lower grades such as K-2 are attending in person.  When a partner district implements a full or partial reopening, special education and related services can also be provided in person for students who are able to attend. Students who are participating in virtual learning based on family choice can request to have related services provided in person. However, students in partner districts that are 100% virtual are not able to receive in-person support.

    How can families learn more about related services and telepractice?

    SSD has been working hard to support families, students and staff in effectively providing telepractice. Below are links to resources available on SSD’s website.


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  • Sept. 23, 2020 – School Reopening Planning

    Posted by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan on 9/23/2020

    As our SSD partner districts announce their reopening plans, I want all of you to know that SSD’s leadership team is planning for when our SSD schools will be able to do the same safely.

    At its September 22 meeting, the SSD Board of Education reviewed and discussed proposed timelines for staff returning to buildings, as well as proposed phased re-entry processes for opening SSD’s schools for in-person learning.

    At this time, a date has not been set for students in SSD schools to return to in-person instruction. However, we have heard from our SSD families and staff that you want to hear more about our District plans, even if those plans may continue to evolve.

    Details about these proposed reopening plans for SSD’s schools are available here on our website.

    We will continue to review these plans and the reopening phases as health data throughout the county warrants, and we will provide updates as more information becomes available. Please know that the SSD Board of Education will continue to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and reopening plans at their monthly meetings.

    Thank you, take care and be well.

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