If schools must close due to swine flu, special education students will stay home just like their peers, but may qualify for extra assistance once school resumes, according to guidelines developed by the Department of Education.

Should schools close due to H1N1, or swine flu, students with disabilities will not receive educational services if such services are not being provided to general education students. But once school resumes, each special education student must be looked at individually to determine if extra assistance is needed to make up for the time and educational benefit lost.

As part of the guidelines, the Department of Education recommends that schools incorporate students with disabilities in their H1N1 planning and consider ways that special education students could utilize distance learning, if necessary.

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Several schools, including at least one specifically serving special education students, closed last spring due to outbreaks of swine flu. Now, government officials are urging schools to prepare for a potentially heightened flu season.

Just last week, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicated that two-thirds of the children who have died from swine flu this year had a chronic illness or developmental disability such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, respiratory troubles or cardiac problems.