Mary Ellen Pantazis' dissertation on, "Special Education and Related Services in the 21st Century"
Mary Ellen Pantazis, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change
This exploratory study addresses special education related services and the requirements when a school aged student with a disability attends school using synchronous distance education tools to access the least restrictive environment. The researcher examines these placements to explore the implications virtual schooling has on students receiving special education and related services. This study involved interviews of the related service providers of two home bound students with disabilities, the student’s parents, classroom teachers, and para educators. The students were accessing their public middle school through the window of technology. These students, when placed in typical classroom least restrictive environments required special education and related services to access a free and appropriate public education. The study reveals the importance of a well defined infrastructure, and the need for thorough examination of the least restrictive environment by the individual education planning teams for special education. Common issues that require further exploration when designing home based programming for students with disabilities accessing their education virtually included developing a communication system, defining attendance, recognizing fear, redefining the least restrictive environment, and identifying equipment ownership. The findings in this study indicate areas of important discussion that should be considered by the IEP team prior to the implementation of a program using video conferencing and home based education for students with disabilities.