Family Resource Toolbox for Families with Children with Disabilities

U.S. Department of Education (USED) 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.

This document provides you with some resources and tools that you may find helpful and will be updated regularly.


Many state agencies and national organizations are providing information and resources to support families and their children during this extended school closure period.

If you have questions, concerns or need additional information, you can contact:

  • Your IEP Team/point of contact (always reach out to your district first)
  • Your local Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC)
  • Information and support lines:
  • Federation for Children with Special Needs (FSCN):
  • Toll free: (800) 331-0688
    • Chinese: (617) 399 8358
    • Haitian Creole: (617) 399 8366
    • Portuguese: (617) 399 8316
    • Spanish: (617) 399 8330
  • Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC):
    • Website:
    • English: (617) 357-8431, ext. 3224
    • Spanish: (617) 357-8431, ext. 3237
  • Department of Public Health (DPH) Community Support Line for Children with Special Health Needs at (800) 882-1435

Massachusetts State Agencies update information and resources frequently:



This is a stressful time.  It is important to take care of yourself and ask for help when needed.  Many agencies are providing families with resources and supports during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • The Parent Support Program offered through the Home for Little Wanderers offers support and group discussion for families who are caring for children with behavioral and mental health needs.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics has put out an advisory for parents facing stressors over COVID-19 to practice self-care, to reach out to others for support.
  • Family Aid Boston offers resources for families worried about or experiencing homelessness.
  • The Child Mind Institute offers phone consultations, video chats and other resources for families dealing with the stress related to COVID-19.
  • Parents Helping Parents:
  • Parental Stress Line 24/7 (PSL)multi-lingual confidential and anonymous hotline 1-800-632-8188.


Domestic Violence: If you or someone you know is quarantining in a home where they do not feel safe, help is available.

  • Safe Link is a 24/7 hour multilingual hotline. Advocates can help with safety planning, and finding resources for shelter, domestic violence support groups, and many other needs.
    • Safe Link 24/7 Crisis Hotline: (877) 785-2020; TTY: (877) 521-2601
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is offering assistance and safety planning 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233for live support. If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto org to chat online, or text LOVEIS to 22522

Child Abuse:  Please call immediately if you know of, or suspect, an incident of child abuse or neglect



There are many informal ways to keep your child engaged in learning beyond supporting school assignments. When in doubt, read, read, read! Reading is one of the most important activities that supports overall learning. There are also a variety of learning games online. Anything that engages your child, stimulates their curiosity, and exposes them to new things will be valuable.

  • Unite for Literacy provides free digital access to picture books, including a variety of fiction and informational text, for students to read. There is also an option for the text to be narrated.
  • National Center on Improving Literacy’s toolkit helps families understand and practice recommended literacy skills.
  • Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) provides information and activities for families of young children.
  • The Pyramid Model, promoting social emotional skills in infants and young children, has developed a booklist to help children understand and develop social emotional skills.
  • Heggerty: Activities to work on foundational reading skills. These are best for ages 4–6.
  • StoryLine Online and Epic: Hear quality children’s literature read aloud and see illustrations.
  • Early literacy games and activities from the Florida Center for Reading Research: easy to print out and play together.
  • Digital decodable readers: this type of book is recommended for reading practice for children who are still learning to sound out and read simple words.


Maintaining a consistent routine is important for helping children feel stable during school closure.

  • Set up a daily routine and schedule. Be sure to include time for breaks. DESE is recommending 3 ½ to 4 hours of learning per weekday, which includes both independent and remote instruction.
  • Use a calendar or day planner to keep track of daily activities. Many children with disabilities, especially younger ones, respond well to a visual schedule that uses pictures to keep track of upcoming activities.
  • For students who need more help staying focused, you can use an online visual countdown timer.
  • Limit distractions and arrange a quiet space for your child to work.
  • Reward your child for time on-task or finishing assignments. Use activities that they enjoy as rewards.


Schools are providing assignments for students to complete from home during school closure.  You can support your child’s learning by guiding them through assignments.

  • Prepare your child for learning by telling them why the work is important, what they will learn and what activities they will complete.
  • Before the lesson, build background and vocabulary. Look for words or topics that you think might be difficult for your child. Use books, drawings, videos, Google, or other resources to help your child build understanding of these words or topics before starting the assignment.
  • Read directions together with your child. Have them repeat back the directions to make sure they understand what to do.
  • Work on the first task or problem together. Then, watch your child do the next task on their own to make sure they understand the directions.
  • Guide your child through the work as needed. Check back occasionally to make sure they are doing the work correctly.
  • If your child needs help, offer ideas that can help them work through the problem. Try not to give the answers or do the work for them.
  • Allow your child to work with a friend over the phone or video call.
  • Help your child stay engaged in learning by varying the time they spend on reading, writing, moving, watching, listening, and speaking.



Resources for Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE):

Resources for ECSE through adulthood:



Your child may use assistive technology (AT).  You can check with your child’s teacher and related service provider about what technology will be best to use at home.


CareGiver toolS:

Families may be worried about what will happen if they get sick and are unable to care their child with disabilities. Resources are available to explain the way hospitals diagnose and treat patients as well as how families can transfer caregiver responsibilities to a trusted family member or friend.


  • Hospitals may have developed processes to work with families to see if they need support and in helping to identify an alternative caregiver when being admitted.
    • You should let your doctor, or the hospital staff know that you are a caregiver of a child with disabilities and that you may need to make a decision about transferring caregiver responsibility.
      • It is important to know that children whose parents are admitted for COVID are suspected to be COVID positive
    • Consider caregivers who are healthy, and do not live with family members who may be at high risk
    • Planning tools for caregivers who might become ill
  • Caregiver Affidavit: a planning tool for parents to transfer caregiver responsibility