Home Hospital 101
Schools may have reopened this year, but for many of our families, ongoing concerns about Covid have turned the opportunity to go back in person into a decision we can’t make lightly — especially for kids who are vulnerable to Covid-related complications, or who are too young or unable to safely get the vaccine.
As distance learning is no longer being offered in most districts, some families are considering Home Hospital (HH) education. What exactly is this, and what would it mean for our kids? Who qualifies for the program, and is it the right fit for your family? What are the steps to request it?
What is Home Hospital education?
Traditionally, Home Hospital is available to children who have a temporary disability, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, or who are recovering from a surgery or other illness that requires them to stay at home for a temporary period of time. Home Hospital isn’t meant to replace independent study or in-person learning indefinitely. The program is designed to help a child:
- continue their studies at home or in the hospital when it isn’t possible or advisable to attend regular classes, and
- maintain their current performance level so they can return to their regular program without falling behind.
Home Hospital may also be a viable option for students with disabilities who cannot attend school or partake in alternative programs because of significant health needs or behavioral challenges. In these cases, the program must still:
- give a child access to the general education curriculum,
- ensure continued progress toward their goals, and
- provide FAPE (Free, Appropriate Public Education).
Check out this short clip of Dr. Pelangka discussing Home Hospital during our recent Undivided Learning event:
Home Hospital vs. Independent Study
Home Hospital instruction is meant to be a temporary placement to help a child maintain their current levels until they are able to return to their previous program. It is not meant to be a replacement for either in-person or remote learning; however, according to Dr. Pelangka, because the pandemic is an unprecedented situation, Home Hospital can theoretically continue for the entire school year.
Independent Study, on the other hand, is designed as an alternative to in-person learning, and allows children to learn remotely if their parents feel it is unsafe to attend in person. This option works best for children who are able to work independently. However, if a parent requests independent study their child can still qualify for a home-based aide if the IEP team determines there is a need.
This summer, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring that all schools make independent study available to their students. Other alternative learning programs include homeschool or homeschool charters.
What does HH look like?
Typically, a teacher will work with the child off-campus, either in the home or a hospital. Other locations such as a library can be approved for sessions as well. For children with IEPs, the teacher assigned to them will be a credentialed special education teacher, and any qualifying educator in the district can accept the position.
According to the California Department of Education, for a child with a temporary disability, one school day equals one hour of Home Hospital instruction, so the typical child would clock a minimum of five hours per week. If a child with HH placement has an IEP, their IEP team will work together to determine the amount of time they need, along with whatever accommodations and services are required.
How can I be sure my child is socializing enough while using HH?
While your child is apart from their peers, you will likely want to ensure they have other opportunities to socialize. According to Dr. Pelangka, the school district will not approve funding for socialization when HH is requested due to Covid vulnerability. However, there may be community resources you can use. She suggests looking into creating a virtual peer group, and checking with an Autism Center or Regional Center for suggestions.
You may also wish to look into other extracurricular classes or clubs through organizations that regularly run virtual programs, such as the following:
ASTEME stands for “Advancement of Science, Technology, and Engineering in Math Education.” They offer classes in a range of themes such as music, art, and nature, and will be offering both in-person and online classes in West Los Angeles for the upcoming year.
Blast offers social skills training in the areas of friendship, play skills, emotional regulation, communication, and self-regulation. They utilize peer-mediated social skills interventions, and create program activities to give participants a range of social experiences in which they will experience both successes and challenges. They are currently offering virtual social skills groups for ages ranging from 5 to 14 and 15 to 24.
Galileo Online: Innovator’s Club
The Innovator’s Club gives kids hands-on learning opportunities all year long with weekly online after-school classes for those in kindergarten through fifth grade. Kids create new crafts, build, or invent every week, sparking their curiosity and imagination.
Holding Hands offers a wide range of therapeutic services for all ages, including a Social Skills Training program for children and teens ages 3 to 19, a teen PEERS Social Skills Training Group, and Social Skills Development Groups. They are currently providing all of their programs via Zoom.
The Miracle Project is a fully inclusive program that combines theater, film, music, movement, and other expressive arts. This year they are offering both in-person and online class opportunities, including online “Improv for Interaction” Social Skills and Expressive Art Classes specifically designed for nonspeakers and those who use AAC.
Outschool online classes range from languages and technology to art, science, and life skills. The classes are divided by age group and taught by enthusiastic educators, and they encourage peer-to-peer interaction. The cost varies from $10–40 per class; create a login to sign up.
UCLA offers a social skills training program known as the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®), PEERS® for Teens, and PEERS® for Young Adults. All of their programs are still offered online via Zoom.
How do I get started with HH?
1. Get a note from your doctor explaining the specific health-related reason your child cannot attend school safely during the pandemic and is therefore eligible for HH, along with a date the team can check your child’s status and/or when the order may be lifted.
- The end date is decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on the risk to your child. Grace Clark suggests choosing a date that the risk might be alleviated and extend if and when needed.
- For example, if you feel your child’s risk will be alleviated when the vaccine is available and deemed safe for kids, then you can set a date for the end of the calendar year. If the vaccine is still not possible then, you can request an extension.
2. Provide the doctor’s note to your child’s IEP team and request a meeting to discuss changing their placement, along with:
- what accommodations and goals can transfer to the HH environment;
- how many hours your child will receive; and
- what services your child will receive at their location or virtually, and what those minutes will look like.
Dr. Pelangka also shared some tips for what to keep in mind when adding HH to your child’s IEP:
- Be aware of the laws regarding IEPs and Home Hospital programs, as well as your child’s PLOPs (Present Levels of Performance). This will help you advocate for your child’s needs.
- Remember, the district cannot cut your child’s services without a legitimate explanation. The provider’s availability is not a valid reason.
- You don’t need to accept what the IEP team says at face value.
- Goals that can be worked on individually can continue as usual.
- It’s okay to get creative! For example, setting up a virtual speech therapy session with classmates or working with family members or friends on group goals, like having peer conversations, might be possible.
- Goals that can be worked on individually can continue as usual.
When your child is ready to return to school in person, you will need to request another IEP meeting to evaluate your child’s status and change their placement back to its previous setting.
How long can HH be used?
Home Hospital education is meant to be a temporary placement. However, because the pandemic is an unprecedented situation, children who qualify will likely be able to use it for the entire school year.
Are you considering Home Hospital, or has your family decided to make the leap? How’s it going? Let us know in the comments!