May 7, 2020
1. What can children do if they are experiencing abuse at home?
In collaboration with Puppets in Education, the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital has put together this 9-minute video for children to learn what to do if they are experiencing abuse at home. Dr. Lewis First, chief of the Children’s Hospital offers advice to children. Here is a Summary and Resources and a Letter to Educators. For additional mental health resources, visit our website.
2. Are there any financial assistance programs for families of children with disabilities/special health needs who have been impacted by Covid-19?
The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a new program to provide financial assistance to eligible patients, covering up to $1,000 annually. The program provides funds for essential expenses including, but not limited to, unexpected utility expenses; cellular or internet service; emergency repairs to car, home or major appliances; and rent or mortgage payment assistance. Interested rare disease patients and families can contact NORD to find out if they meet eligibility requirements. Call (203) 242-0497 or email COVID19assistance@rarediseases.org. NORD also has a rare caregiver respite program offering $500 annually for those who qualify.
The HealthWell Foundation is offering grants up to $250 to assist qualifying applicants with costs associated with delivered food, medication, diagnostics, transportation and telehealth as a result of COVID-19 risk or incidence. Applications are only accepted by phone by calling 1-(800) 675-8416.
The Covid-19 Resource Relief program through Laughing at my Nightmare is to provide financial assistance to individuals living with any disability, diagnosis, or chronic illness to help alleviate the burden of the coronavirus-related quarantines and social distancing practices. This assistance is provided in the form of one $100 Visa Gift Card to be used for food, hygiene products, and other living expenses associated with self-isolation and quarantine.
3. What can I expect in a Telehealth visit for my child who has a genetic condition?
Telehealth is using technology to connect with a health care provider who is at a different location than you. A Telehealth visit with a genetics provider is called “Telegenetics.” This short video provides information on what to expect from a Telegenetics visit from your home.
A Telegenetics visit is similar to an in-person genetics clinic visit. The genetics provider will ask you questions about medical history and family history. The specific things that happen during a Telegenetics visit depend on why you or your family member were referred for genetic services, and whether this is your first time seeing a genetics provider or a follow-up appointment. Sometimes a physical exam might be needed, in which case a local healthcare provider may help. Your genetics provider may also suggest some genetic testing. This one-page infographic “Telewhat? An Introduction to Telegenetics” provides information on how it works.
4. What resources are available to siblings (age 13+) of a child with special health needs?
Siblings of a child with special health needs who are age 13+ can connect with other teenaged sibs on SibTeen, a closed Facebook group co-hosted by the Sibling Support Project. There are also many books available for siblings of children with a range of special health conditions; check your local library’s ebook offerings. Siblings age 6+ are invited to our last “virtual” Sibshop of the school year on Saturday, May 16 from 1- 2:30 pm. To register, or for any other questions about supports for siblings, please contact Molly.Lawney@vtfn.org.
April 17, 2020
1. Can I be with my child who has a special health need/disability if they are in the hospital emergency room and/or are admitted to the hospital?
Yes, under some circumstances and depending on the specific hospital’s policies. The University of Vermont Medical Center’s Updated Visitation Policy in Response to Covid-19 states: “The University of Vermont Medical Center is temporarily suspending visitation, restricting entrances, and screening everyone who enters hospital facilities and clinics in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Until further notice, no visitors will be allowed, with limited exceptions to individuals who are screened, including:”
[Note: Following are excerpts from the Medical Center’s Visitation Policy.]
For outpatient care (e.g. emergency room), visitors who are allowed include:
- “Visitors are not permitted to accompany patients to outpatient visits unless the patient requires support and assistance to access their appointment.”
- “Pediatric patients may have one parent or support person for outpatient visits if they are properly screened.”
For inpatient care (e.g. admitted to hospital), visitors who are allowed include:
- “One parent or support person for pediatric patients.”
- “One consistent support person may be permitted in other rare circumstances such as for a patient with a cognitive impairment or disability who requires assistance to access care.”
2. How have Children’s Personal Care Services (CPCS) temporarily changed in response to Covid-19?
Children qualify for CPCS because they require extra support with their activities of daily living. The public health emergency caused by Covid-19 means that families may not be able to access extra support from an outside provider due to the increased risk for exposure to the coronavirus. In response to these added barriers to care, the Vermont Agency of Human Services requested a waiver from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) to allow parents and family members of children with CPCS to receive payment for the extra personal care they are providing. This is a significant, but temporary change to the federal regulations that govern CPCS. This waiver is retroactive to March 15, 2020, the Sunday prior to the closure order for Vermont schools. This means parents can submit invoices for the extra care they have provided since March 15, 2020. Read the CPCS Program Changes in Response to Covid-19 for all the details including links to the ARIS forms. These changes were reviewed in a Town Hall meeting on April 10. The CPCS program staff is available to help you. Contact Adam Poulin, Program Administrator at 802-865-1395 or Jessica Hill, CPCS Specialist, at 802-951-5169.
3. How can I support my child to learn at home?
Parents, families, and caregivers can play an important role in setting routines and encouraging student learning at home. The Vermont Agency of Education has issued “Continuity of Learning Guidelines for Families and Guardians of Students in Pre-kindergarten – 5th grade and Students in Grades 6-12.” “Continuity of Learning” means that effective April 13, school districts are required to provide education services and related supports to all students remotely so that student learning and academic progress is achieved during the time of the Covid-19 emergency. However, school districts will be following their scheduled April vacations for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Continuity of Learning Guidelines are designed to help families and at-home caregivers navigate the new challenges of home-based learning, which is “unique and should not try to recreate school.” Topics include: the role of families/guardians in supporting remote learning; the importance of developing a schedule; monitoring and setting limits on the use of technology; obtaining social and emotional supports for the whole family; and the importance of self-care for the caregiver(s).
4.What can I do if my child is displaying challenging behaviors which makes home- based learning difficult?
Tracy Harris, Coordinator of Behavioral Supports at the Vermont Agency of Education, outlined some concepts and tools that may be helpful to families — “Responding to Challenging Behaviors of School-Aged Children at Home and/or Childcare Settings.” Tracy explains that “Keeping a regular schedule provides a sense of control, predictability, calm, and well-being for children and youth. Flexibility is also important, especially now. Building in breaks, down-time, play-time, and connecting as a group is just as important for your child’s well-being as continuing their academic learning.” Other strategies she suggests include: “Catch Them Being Good, Planned Ignoring of Low-Level Behaviors, Reminders, the ABC’s of Behavior (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence),” and more.
April 3, 2020
March 27, 2020
6. What changes have been made to Vermont Medicaid as a result of the Covid-19 emergency?
1. I’m concerned about not being prepared in case of an emergency for my child with special health care needs. How can I feel better prepared?
We are the Vermont chapter of Family Voices, a national organization that has many helpful emergency preparedness resources on their website. Other emergency preparedness resources are on our website.
2. As part of emergency preparedness, I’d like to have a larger supply of my child’s medication on hand. Will Medicaid allow that?
Yes. “In response to COVID-19 concerns and to ensure that Medicaid members have access to the medications they need, the Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) is implementing the following changes to its prescription drug benefits programs, effective 3/18/2020: 1. Members may request early refills of medication up to a 90-day supply as needed.” Read more here.
3. Are there any COVID-19 resources specifically for parents of children with autism?
Yes. One resource is the National Autism Association. If you learn of other good resources that we could share with parents, please send an email to email@example.com. Also, April is World Autism Month beginning with United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place throughout throughout the world in the month of April to increase understanding and acceptance and foster worldwide support.
4. If my family loses health insurance due to a job loss, who should I call?
Your children may qualify for Medicaid, also referred to in Vermont as Dr. Dynasaur. Check this eligibility chart. Children with disabilities might also be eligible for the Disabled Children’s Home Care, also known as Katie Beckett Medicaid. Katie Beckett Medicaid will retroactively cover up to 3 months if there is a lapse in coverage. Contact us or Green Mountain Care for assistance. We can help you with a Katie Beckett application or renewal. You can also take a look at our Health Frequently Asked Questions.
5. Is there any financial help for my child’s medically-necessary expenses?
Yes, income-eligible families of children with special health needs (birth to 21) may apply for up to $1,000 per 12 month period for their child’s unmet medically necessary needs such as equipment, medications, travel, and therapies. More information here.
May 7, 2020
1. How can I provide input on changes I would like to see to the State of Vermont Special Education Rules, which are currently open for public comments?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law governing how States provide accommodations, and services to support children and students with disabilities in their education. Vermont’s Special Education Rules govern IDEA in Vermont.
Vermont Family Network is gathering information regarding proposed changes to the Rules through a short survey. This survey is an opportunity for you to share valuable feedback regarding your experience with your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and special education team. Your feedback will be aggregated and shared with the State Board of Education and could influence the final changes to the Rules. This survey is short and should only take a few minutes to complete. Thank you for your time! It does make a difference! If you have any questions, please contact VFN Family Support at (802) 876-5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. How can parents plan for and participate in virtual IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings?
Because of coronavirus, school closures, and social distancing, IEP teams are now meeting virtually, either in conference calls or via the Internet using web-based meeting platforms such as Zoom and Skype. While video and screen sharing can enhance engagement, they are not required. IEP meetings can be conducted using a conference line, which is accessible through a traditional phone line or through most virtual meeting platforms. Parents can ask that all documents are shared via e-mail or U.S. mail before the meeting. This new, 6-page Virtual IEP Meeting Tip Sheet addresses these topics:
- Technology Tips for Participants
- Hosting Virtual IEP Meetings: Tips for Success (before, during, and after meeting suggestions)
- Common Questions and Answers About Hosting Virtual IEP Meetings
- Participating in Virtual IEP Meetings: Tips for IEP Team Members (before, during, and after meeting suggestions)
- Common Questions and Answers About Participating in Virtual IEP Meetings
April 17, 2020
1. My child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school. What can I expect from my child’s teachers and special educators now that Continuity of Learning is in place?
Families can expect that learning at home will look very different from learning at school. However, there is a process for you to participate in, as part of your child’s IEP team, in the changes that are occurring in the way in which your child receives services. In this guidance, Supporting Learning While Social Distancing: Companion Document for Families of Children with Disabilities, you can read what to expect regarding related services – which include therapies, parent training/education and possible in-person supports, communication, your rights if you disagree with the school and other topics.
2. Can an Act 264/Coordinated Services Plan meeting still happen during the Covid-19 emergency?
Yes, Coordinated Services Plan (CSP) meetings are happening “virtually” since they cannot be done in-person during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents can request a CSP meeting by contacting either a member of their child’s special education or mental health team. It’s best to request the CSP meeting in writing.
The CSP process allows parents, providers (health/mental health), school teams, therapists, and anyone else involved in your child’s care plan to be at the same meeting to collaborate on what is working, what is needed, and to identify gaps and disconnects in care or communication. The process gives families access to a local Parent Representative, who is a parent who has lived experience navigating children’s mental health and other service systems. They can help you prepare for the meeting and make sure that your needs are communicated to the team. Contact Vickie Crocker if you have questions about the CSP process or if you would like a Parent Support Representative for Chittenden County. For all other counties, contact the Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health.
3. My child is turning 16 and needs a transition plan. How will my IEP team do transition planning if we are not in school?
Your IEP team can do transition assessments and many are student led. Special education teachers can use that assessment data to inform what the best career exploration activities might look like for your child. There are many transition assessments that can be done online.
4. How will my child receive FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education) through transition services during remote learning?
The Vermont Graduation Readiness Tool can help ensure FAPE with regard to the provision of transition services during remote learning, since it captures all elements of effective transition planning.
April 3, 2020
March 27, 2020
3. My youth has a transition goal in their IEP (Individualized Education Program) on career exploration. How can I help them with this goal at home?
March 20, 2020
This information is from the Vermont Agency of Education’s guidance (3/18/20) relating to supporting students with disabilities and their services, as a result of closures and dismissals related to COVID-19.
1. What will happen to my child’s services when school is closed for all students due to COVID- 9? [Schools are currently considered closed March 18 – April 6.]
a) If a school closure causes educational services for all students to stop, then the school/district is generally not required to provide services to students eligible for special education services during that same period of time.
b) During the period of school closure, a school district may provide enrichment materials to prevent loss of learning. However, any enrichment materials must be made accessible for your child with a disability. These enrichment materials are optional for you to use.
c) After an extended closure, districts are responsible for reviewing how the closure impacted the delivery of special education and related services to your child if they are eligible for special education services. Schools may be required to provide additional services or extended school year services to make up missed services.
d) If your child’s annual IEP review or eligibility review is due during a school closure it is important to keep lines of communication open and work with your school to plan to meet as soon as school is back in session. Another option to consider is meeting virtually during a closure, using tools such as video or audio conference calls.
2. What will happen to my child’s services when a school is dismissed but educational services continue to be provided to all students through remote methods? [School dismissal may be considered after April 6.]
a) If a school district has dismissed on-site educational services but continues to provide educational services to all students though take-home educational packets or remote learning opportunities, the district will remain responsible for ensuring your child with an individualized education program (IEP) will continue to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) during the dismissal period.
b) Your district should be communicating with you before, during, and after a school dismissal regarding modifications and accommodations to support your child’s IEP services. Schools should work to ensure that all students continue to receive services to the most appropriate extent possible.
c) Although special education or related services may need to be adjusted, your IEP team should work to ensure that your child receives services comparable to all other students. Services might include schoolwork packets, online learning, or some other learning adapted to your child’s needs and location.
d) After an extended closure or dismissal, districts are responsible for reviewing how the closure impacted the delivery of special education and related services to your child on an IEP. Schools may need to provide additional services or extended school year services to make up missed services.
e) If annual IEP reviews or eligibility reviews are due during this time it is important to keep lines of communication open and work with your school to plan to meet as soon as school is back in session. Another option to consider is meeting virtually, using tools such as video or audio conference calls.
April 17, 2020
What other resources are available to help me feed my family?
Visit the Hunger Free Vermont website section “How You & Your Neighbors Can Access Food” for the latest updates on school meals, WIC (nutrition program for Women, Infants, & Children), 3SquaresVT, meal programs for older Vermonters, and food assistance through the Vermont Foodbank network.
While school districts are encouraged to operate student meals programs during April school vacation, some may choose to temporarily suspend their meal program. Please contact your local school district for more information.
Vermont Legal Aid has a good list of resources on topics including: food, housing, benefits, etc.
April 3, 2020
March 27, 2020
March 20, 2020
1. Will schools continue to provide breakfast and lunch to students?
To prepare for the potential for an extended dismissal, the Governor has directed each district to create a Continuity of Education Plan that includes meal service for those who need it. There are a variety of ways schools may meet these needs. “For many Vermont schools, setting up the grab-and-go meal pick up as a drive through pick up site may make the most sense. For other Vermont schools, it may
make more sense to have children pick up meals at a walk-up location. The school could also offer home delivery upon request. This could be in conjunction with a Grab-and-Go site, or as the only method of distribution.” Schools will need to work out what they are able to offer and what will work best for the families in their districts as each location is unique.We suggest that you contact your school district to learn about what is being offered in your area. Read more about school nutrition information from the Vermont Agency of Education.
2. What other resources are available to help me feed my family?
Visit the Hunger Free Vermont website for the latest updates.
3. Where can I get help if I have a legal or a benefits problem related to COVID-19?
Vermont Legal Aid and Legal Services Vermont work together to provide free civil (not criminal) legal help to low-income people and to people with disabilities who live in Vermont. Their services are free. Visit their website for information about utility shutoffs, social security, unemployment insurance, evictions, food, and more.
4. What’s available to help us pay for Internet in our home so our children can participate in virtual learning from their school?
Comcast announced, “During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the Internet – for education, work, and personal health reasons.” Comcast is taking steps to implement new policies for the next 60 days, and other important initiatives. Read the details here.
March 27, 2020
1. How are CIS-EI team members—including my family— communicating with one another?
Under the umbrella of Children’s Integrated Services, Early Intervention (EI) services are considered essential and therefore should continue to be delivered at this time. Early Intervention is federally mandated for eligible infants and toddlers (birth to age 3) under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA.)
3. What happens if I can’t do virtual visits right now because of my family’s circumstances and the pandemic? Will I lose EI (Early Intervention) services?
March 20, 2020
Vermont families whose infants and toddlers have or are at risk of developmental delays are entitled to Early Intervention under Part C of IDEA. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CIS-EI services have been deemed “essential,” and continue to be offered throughout Vermont.
1. How will COVID-19 affect my child’s early intervention services?
All CIS programs in Vermont received guidance yesterday from the state’s Child Development Division. In order to ensure that we are following CDC social distancing guidelines to minimize families’ exposure to COVID-19, VFN’s CIS-EI program in Chittenden County suspended face-to-face home visits on Monday, March 16 for at least two weeks. Like our other programs, we continue to provide support to families, developmental education and service coordination through remote means. We are contacting families to offer virtual visits through videoconferencing and phone calls, and updating families’ One Plans to reflect any changes in services the family wishes to have during the pandemic crisis.
2. How are my child’s meeting and transition plans being managed during the pandemic?
CIS-EI providers throughout Vermont are figuring out the logistics, and in Chittenden County, we plan to be doing videoconferencing and phone calls in collaboration with parents/caregivers, school partners and service providers.
3. When do you expect to offer face-to-face visits for families again?
As detailed in the guidance from the Child Development Division, we are expected to offer face-to-face home/childcare visits again when schools reopen. As always, CIS-EI will coordinate these with families.
What Covid-19 resources are available to share with English Language Learners? What resources are available for people who use American Sign Language?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention series of videos about Covid-19 in American Sign Language