Letter from DESE and Special Education Parent Toolbox

The following letter was sent to School Districts to distribute to special education families. It was downloaded from the DESE website.

April 9, 2020  

Dear Families and Guardians:

During this period of extended school closure, we recognize this is a difficult time for families, guardians, and caregivers. We understand that one of your concerns is how your children with disabilities will continue to receive support and services from schools while they are closed due to the public health emergency related to COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, we appreciate that families and educators will work together to provide the best possible access to special education instruction and services.

In this letter, I want to share important updates about what schools are doing to support your child during this time. The accompanying Family Resource Toolbox provides some helpful information about resources and strategies for families. 

On March 21, the U.S. Department of Education issued a fact sheet clarifying that schools must continue to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities while protecting the health and safety of students, educators, and service providers. In these extraordinary circumstances, special education services will be provided differently than they are when school buildings are open and fully operational. Remote special education services should start immediately. You do not need to provide consent for remote services to begin. You should receive a plan about how the school will provide remote services.

Read Full Letter:

Family Resource Toolbox

Emergency School Closures: Resources for Our Community

Following are some important resources and sources of information for parents of students with disabilities in Cambridge.

Federation for Children with Special Needs

The Federation for Children With Special Needs has extensive resources for parents of students with disabilities – including distance learning resources and information about students’ legal rights while school buildings are closed. Some key guidance from this website is directly linked below.

View these resources here >

Federal Guidance

“How a district will provide FAPE will look different during this unprecedented period of national and state emergency. While ensuring the health and safety of students and educators is a priority, it may not be feasible during the current period of school closures to provide, for example, hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or tactile sign language services. However, many specialized instructional opportunities and related services may be modified to be effectively provided by sending resources and supports

to students or online or telephonically. Such forms of specialized instruction may include, for instance, accessible reading materials, speech and language services through video conferencing, and videos with accurate captioning. Moreover, districts may continue to implement many of the accommodations on a student’s IEP, such as extensions of time for assignments, large print, and use of speech-to-text and other assistive technology.”

Read full guidance >

Department of Elementary & Secondary Education – Guidance to Special Education Leaders

  • Begin services as soon as you can; add more over time
  • IEP amendments are not required
  • Online or virtual remote learning in this emergency is considered an alternate mode of instructional delivery
  • Give written notice to parents of remote learning plans – what to expect and how services will be delivered
    • Send email or correspondence to documenting services, accommodations, and modes of delivery – could use N1
    • Let parents know who to contact with questions

Read service delivery guidance from April 3 >

First Annual Dyslexia Community Fair

Image of teen girl's hands holding a pen, captioned: Cambridge Public Schools Celebrates Dyslexia Awareness Mongth

First Annual Cambridge Dyslexia Community Fair
Saturday, October 19 from 1-5pm
Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
459 Broadway • Cambridge, MA 02138 

Join us for an afternoon of workshops, guest speakers, simulations, and parent panels. Barbara Wilson, author and co-founder of the Wilson Reading Program, will give a keynote address. Refreshments & childcare will be provided. 

Please RSVP Here >>

Presented by the SEPAC Dyslexia Working Group and the Office of Student Services. Questions? Contact the CPS Office of Student Services 

Cambridge Dyslexia Diaries: Part 1

Principal, Anthony I. Byers, PhD shares his personal story about how he struggled to learn how to read. As an elementary school principal, he offers encouragement and advice to students telling them that with the right instruction and support they will succeed. It is important to raise awareness about dyslexia and highlight the stories of role models so that students do not feel invisible or ashamed but rather understand that they need to learn differently.

2019 Dyslexia Awareness Activities

At 6pm on October 4, 2019 Cambridge will Light Up City Hall Red to mark World Dyslexia Awareness Day.

Please come and join us, and wear red to signify your support for dyslexia awareness as we launch a month of activities taking place in schools, libraries, and the community.

Light it Up Red at City Hall
October 4 at 6PM 795 Massachusetts Ave
Wear red and join us for this sunset ceremony, when Cambridge will light City Hall red in honor of dyslexia awareness

Dyslexia Community Resource Fair
October 19 from 1 – 4PM
Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School – 459 Broadway
Keynote Speaker will be Dr. Barbara Wilson, Author & Co-Founder of the Wilson Reading System®

Decoding Dyslexia MA: Light the Zakim Bridge Red
October 19 at 6PM
Sunset ceremony in Paul Revere Park, Charlestown

Dyslexia Awareness Month Displays
September 29th – October 6th
Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway

Grades 2 – 5: Ask your child’s teacher about Dyslexia Awareness Classroom Read-Alouds of The Alphabet War: A Story of Dyslexia during the month of October

About Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a brain-based issue that makes it hard to learn to read accurately and fluently. The most common learning challenge, Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. Students don’t outgrow dyslexia, but with the right support, key skills can improve. About 17% (nearly 1 in 5) people show signs of reading challenges such as dyslexia. Many successful people have dyslexia, and researchers have been studying it for over a century. It’s important to know that while dyslexia impacts learning, it’s not a problem of intelligence. People with dyslexia are just as smart as their peers.

About the Cambridge Dyslexia and Struggling Readers Working Group

Statement of Purpose: To build effective partnership with school and community stakeholders to ensure that Cambridge Public School Students with dyslexia and struggling readers: are taught in a way that is evidence and science-based and appropriate for their learning and emotional needs, rigorous, joyful & culturally responsive; receive personalized support; experience post-secondary Success, and become engaged community members.

The Dyslexia and Struggling Readers Working Group, which is comprised of parents, school administrators, teachers and community members, was formed in July 2019 and began meeting monthly with the Assistant Superintendent of the Office of Student Services and members of her staff to support program improvement for students with language-based learning disabilities, including early screening and intervention, and Dyslexia Awareness.

This working group is a sub-committee of the Cambridge Special Education Parent Advisory Council. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Zuleka Queen-Postell (zqueen-postell@cpsd.us) and/or Mercedes Soto (soto.mercedesm@gmail.com)

November 15: Struggling Readers with Dr. Nadine Gaab

Nadine_GaabJoin Cambridge SE-PAC for a discussion of reading and dyslexia with Dr. Nadine Gaab:

Thursday, November 15 at 6PM
Cambridge CityWide Senior Center
806 Massachusetts Avenue
Register for this session now>>

Dr. Gaab will discuss her research on language and reading development, including the neurology of developmental dyslexia. Through the Gaab Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, her research team focuses on children diagnosed with or at risk for various developmental disorders, particularly language-based learning disabilities. Dr. Gaab is also on the faculty of Harvard Graduate School of Education and an adjunct at Brandeis University.