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June 3, 2020 Meeting - Open Forum - Debriefing the End of the School Year

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

PALS Meeting Minutes

June 3, 2020 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom

Scroll down for the latest COVID-19 Resources & More.

Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education. We discussed:

End of the School Year

Families are ready for the school year to be over. The last eleven weeks have taught all of us a variety of new things. The virtual learning experience has been different for everyone. Here are a few of the things we've learned along the way:

  • What worked for families.

    • multiple children in the home who need assistance - create an on/off schedule; while working with one child the other(s) are "off". This can lower everyone's frustration level and allow for needed one-on-one time.

    • Trello task management app is free and easy to use allowing families and students to easily keep track of whether or not an assignment has been completed.

    • Flexibility of teachers was greatly appreciated.

    • Working with teachers to assign work in a manner that best works for them, I.e. instead of things that were due on a daily basis, making things due on a weekly basis.

    • PAWS Days were a hit! This allowed families to manage the workload and complete all work within the week. Prior to the implementation of PAWS Days families were feeling overwhelmed as schoolwork was taking over weekends and still needing to be completed into the next week.

    • Allowing students to work on concepts in a manner that interests them the most.

    • Downloading Brain Pop to help cover the subjects that students find less interesting outside of the traditional classroom setting. With the help of Brain Pop the student becomes interested again. In this particular case the family paid the fee for Brain Pop and is working with their child's service coordinator to receive reimbursement.

    • Continue to encourage kids, no amount of work is too small to remind kids how proud you are of what they are doing.

  • What could use improvement.

    • Work not being available for review/download/printing until the day it is to be worked on. Parents/Caregivers have become the para-professionals of virtual learning. Teachers arrange unit and lesson plans well in advance, however in most cases, families must wait until the school day to have access to the lesson(s). Families have found themselves spending up to an hour each morning just trying to make themselves aware of what the school day will look like and what is expected at the end. Having access in advance is a helpful way to give families a chance to schedule their workload for the week.

    • In some cases workloads are too much. There is a difference between the time spent on an assignment in the classroom and virtually. In the classroom a teacher may have 40 minutes blocked off for a particular assignment. There are so many additional learning opportunities that teachers add along the way that break-up that 40 minutes. While in a virtual learning setting it may be better to lessen that workload to keep students interested.

    • We know our children's teachers think outside of the box when in the classroom, making sure all learning styles are addressed. We want teachers to receive the support and training needed to help them carry that over to virtual learning.

    • There are so many different Apps on student iPads that in some cases even students do not know where to find things. This experience is a great example of why it is important to give all parents and caregivers an opportunity to participate in learning experiences like virtual tutorials.

  • Proudest moments:

    • Inspired by a student organized their own study area taking control of their learning environment.

    • Realizing that the work area that was set-up for them was too small, another student moved to the kitchen table so they could spread out.

    • A student recommended a teacher conduct a virtual classroom so that the students could all see each other and feel reconnected.

    • A student shared life lessons with a parent demonstrating that they have learned that what we may thing is important in the moment isn't that important in the larger view of life, telling the parent, "It's not the end of the world." when a laptop crashed and "It's okay, there's no need to be perfect." when a meal being prepared was burned.

Getting Back to School:

Find the latest updates from the Pennsylvania Department of Education about the reopening of schools:

Find the latest updates from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services about the reopening of child care centers:

Next Meeting: June 24, 2020 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.

**NEW Log-in and Password for this and all upcoming meetings will be sent in all upcoming newsletters.



Disability Rights Network May Newsletter




In response to COVID-19, changes have been made to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). "The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020." For more informaiton please use the links above or visit the Department of Labor (DOL) webiste.


From Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Intellectual Disability (OID)

AC DHS is preparing for what COVID-19 means for changes in service delivery today and into the future. As the situation continues to evolve, we want to get a feel for what people who are receiving services are experiencing—what is working well and what is not—to continue helping those who need it the most.

Please share the survey with family members and individuals that you support and assist them in completing it online if necessary.

First, ask clients if they will answer a few questions about the help they are receiving. Let them know their responses can be anonymous and we will use their input for planning. Then share the survey link ( with them if they’re able to complete it independently on a computer, tablet or mobile device. If they cannot, please respond on their behalf:

  1. Go to

  2. Scroll down to Share Your Ideas

  3. Click “Answer” underneath each question

  4. Click sign in or sign up to comment. Signing in or up is not required to respond. You will be able to choose to Participate Anonymously on the next screen.

  5. Type in the text box and click “Post” when you are finished. Responses post immediately and are visible to anyone with a link to the website.

Do not forget to complete the survey yourself! You will be able to enter multiple responses after clicking “Post” after each response. We know you are busier now that ever.

Thank you for taking the time to help shape the future of our human services system. 

Brenda Bulkoski

Deputy Director, Office of Intellectual Disability (OID), Allegheny County Department of Human Services (AC DHS).



From Open Up Pittsburgh

The Open Up team has been working hard to bring plans for accessible virtual practice to life. Today, we published our first digital book with written content as well as a video collections for all ages.

We look forward to sharing more resources from Open Up as we continue to work in the hopes of bringing a bit of lightness to our spaces.


From Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Intellectual Disability (OID)

The Integrated Supports Star, a Charting the LifeCourse tool, is a way to brainstorm and share support strategies throughout the COVID-19 response.  

Find information about a May webinar, Supports Star examples, an Allegheny County COVID-19 star and an Allegheny County blank star for you to complete on the OID Key Communicator Announcement page here

Also from OID

Supplemental Security Income Recipients Will Receive Automatic COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments SSI Recipients with Dependent Children Should Still Go To to Provide Their Information

News release Wednesday, April 15th 2020

“The Social Security Administration announced today that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive automatic Economic Impact Payments directly from the Treasury Department. Treasury anticipates these automatic payments no later than early May.

SSI recipients with no qualifying children do not need to take any action in order to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. The payments will be automatic.

SSI recipients who have qualifying children under age 17, however, should not wait for their automatic $1,200 individual payment. They should now go to the IRS’s webpage at and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info section to provide their information. By taking proactive steps to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. If SSI beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait until later to receive their $500 per qualifying child.”

For more information and a print version of the news release visit

Also from OID

Also from OID

Find this latest resource list, Resources especially helpful during the COVID-19 response on the OID webpage here

Please take some time to explore…I hope you find some things you can use… Your feedback would be appreciated!

There are lots of remote activities and ways to stay connected, supported and informed including:

  • Resources related to supporting individuals with intellectual disability and/or autism, their families and the people that support them

  • Resources related to supporting individuals with specific communication needs, their families and the people that support them

  • Basic Needs

  • Find support and connection

  • Ways to keep busy

  • Education  - students learning from home

As always, these lists are also available on our page:




The Statewide Support & Referral Helpline is staffed by skilled and compassionate staff that are available 24/7 to respond to those struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions due to the COVID-19 emergency. Staff at the Helpline refer callers to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs.

The toll-free, round-the-clock support line is officially operational.

The number to call is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

The Helpline was created by the Department of Human Services DHS and the Center for Community Resources (CCR). Helpline staff are trained to be accessible, culturally competent, and skilled at assisting individuals in the ID/A community as well as anyone else who might have a need – teens, adults, special populations and their supporters. Staff use the principles of trauma-informed care to listen, assess needs, triage calls, and provide appropriate referral to community resources to children, teens, adults and special populations.


Autism Connection of Pennsylvania's Spring Newsletter


Center for Community Resources


From Fox Chapel Area School District:

The Fox Chapel Area School District is continuing weekly food distributions for our families. These distributions, consisting of five breakfasts and five lunches, will continue as long as the school district is closed.

Weekly distribution will be held from noon-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the back entrance of Kerr Elementary School.

We will continue to keep you informed of upcoming food distribution sessions as they are scheduled.


Great Pittsubrgh Food Bank is holding a number of no contact food distributions in the area. There is a weeky distribution at the their headquarters at 1 N. Linden St.

Duquesne, PA 15110 every Monday. The time is generally 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.. Please tune into local news organizations for updates and other no contact food distribution sites. If you need additional information or further assistance, please visit their Get Help page.


During this time, we will continue to host virtual meetings using Zoom EVERY Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.. We will post the log-in information for these meetings on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. THIS IS A PASSWORD PROTECTED MEETING. THE PASSWORD IS INCLUDED IN OUR E-MAILED NEWSLETTER. YOU MAY SUBSCRIBE TO OUR E-MAIL LIST TO RECEIVE IT.

Reference Material

Need information regarding the rights to special education in Pennsylvania? The Education Law Center’s “A Guide for Parents and Advocates” is a great start.


Next Meeting: June 24, 2020 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.

**NEW Log-in and Password for this and all upcoming meetings will be sent in all upcoming newsletters.

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