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11-26-2020 Gaps widen as shutdowns affect students with special needs; History, Honor, and Sacrific

Gaps widen as shutdowns affect students with special needs

By Angela Widdis

COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on all families. However, it brings a whole new set of unique challenges with children that already are facing learning disabilities due to their special needs.

With school closures taking place throughout the Tri-City area, and beyond, and the fear of more to come, parents are scrambling to manage their children’s education and balancing their duties at work and the need for child care where it has not been needed before.

Managing all of this is particularly hard for parents of children with disabilities because learning and school participation are often supported by a team of professionals. These professionals are providing services like speech and language, behavioral, occupational, and physical therapies. Many of these supports have been put on limited access, while others have been moved to an online format and some are discontinued completely.

Daivion, doing his school work from home

The looming shutdown of facilities has the parents that are waiting for a diagnosis even more scared. Because of the virus, many businesses are behind due to being shut down in the spring. This has pushed back everyone’s appointments and they fear that they could be pushed back even more if there is another shutdown ahead.

New to the area complicates matters

Celeste Lemmons and her husband Charles have two children, ages five and six, with special needs. They have just moved into the area from Arkansas. The Lemmons family is running into challenges getting the appropriate medical coverage, as well as proper therapies in place for their children, due to the backlog in the system because of COVID-19 restrictions. This current state of circumstances is reducing the quality of care even further for these children that are already on the margins.

The Lemmons find it hard to make the personal connections that are needed for families who have just relocated to a new area. Celeste explains that parents of special needs children often find it more difficult to make friends because of the gathering restrictions as well as the limitations that having a special needs child brings to the mix.

In-person instruction has advantages

Coloma mother, Brandy McVay stated that her son has been showing signs of improved verbal skills by being in a classroom setting with peers. McVay, whose 5-year-old son is on the autism spectrum, states that she is worried that if there is a complete shutdown again, this social interaction will not be as effective over a computer screen for her son. She fears that her son will not continue to progress at the same rate she has seen with face-to-face learning.

Shutdowns disrupt progress

The Arnys, a Coloma family, knows all too well the setbacks that can happen when special needs students have their routine disrupted. Their son, Will attends the Logan Center in Benton Harbor. When their son had returned from a three-week-long shutdown, he had to restart some of his programmings because he was not able to acclimate to the changes in routine. Constance, Will’s mom, said, “In this pandemic stage others just don’t realize what happens to the special needs community. They need the interaction and the continued support of having some kind of consistency in their lives. They [the special needs students] don’t understand and it often can’t be explained to them why they can’t do the things they enjoy and look forward to doing on a daily basis.”

For those children with special needs, having a schedule that will be or that has been disrupted by lockdowns and the move to a remote learning format, as well as lacking social interactions with peers that connect with them on their level, will have a negative ripple effect. Parents have seen their child’s mood worsened, more tantrums, distractions grow, and mounted frustration caused by stress and anxiety as a result of the changes in routines because of the coronavirus shutdowns.

Difficulty with school learning not taking place in a school building

Christina Hurrell, of Hartford, is facing those problems. Her 11-year-old son Daivion is having a hard time understanding that he needs to do school when he is at home. Daivion suffers from Lambdoid Synostosis, which is the premature fusion of the bones in the back of an infant’s skull; though extremely uncommon, that is not his only diagnosis. Daivion also has High Functioning Autism, vision loss, OCD, and ADHD and though he is highly functional, the one thing that presents the biggest problem for Christina is his inability to grasp the concept of schooling while at home.

Hurrell stated, “Trying to get him [Daivion] to do his schoolwork is not only a physical battle it is a mental battle as well.” She mentions that with Daivion’s world being so concrete, that he can’t think of school happening outside of a school building.

All of these parents understand the need to keep safe during the pandemic. Many of these students are medically compromised and that adds more of a challenge for the special needs parents and caregivers to navigate.

As to be expected, some children with disabilities will face greater challenges than others with online learning based on their specific disability. Yet, these families are also more likely to be at a socio-economic disadvantage due to the sheer costs of raising a child with special needs thus causing even more complications in access to services needed to fill the gaps.

History, Honor, and Sacrifice is remembered in November

By Angela Widdis

Each year, November is designated as National Veterans and Military Families Month. Set aside to thank service members and their families for all their sacrifices, hard work, bravery, and to honor those who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of American freedom. November is filled with days that are set aside to honor such service with celebrations across the globe.

WREATH LAYING… John Izak is seen here laying the wreath at the WWI Monument in St. Joseph that was commissioned in 1923 and re-dedicated in 2018 by the Algonquin Chapter of the DAR. (TCR Photo by Angela Widdis)

Marine Corps birthday

November 10, 2020, marked the 245th birthday of the United States Marine Corp. In 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men and women have borne the name “Marine”. The birthday is celebrated with a Marine Corps Birthday Ball with a formal dinner, birthday cake, and entertainment. The first ball was held in 1925.

Armistice Day in France

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11th to mark the armistice signed between the allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France. Noting that the signing of the truce took place on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month back in 1918. Nov. 11, 1918, was largely considered the end of “the war to end all wars”.

Remembrance Day in Britain and Canada

Also, held on November 11th, this day is set aside to remember all the lives of those who were killed in any of the wars and conflicts. The citizens usually wear a red poppy, a flower symbolizing the remembrance of the fallen of WWI. This tradition started with a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a World War I brigade surgeon. McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Field,” channels the voice of the fallen soldiers buried under those hardy poppies flowers.

Veterans Day in the United States of America

Here in the USA, we remember November 11th as the anniversary date of the signing of the armistice that ended WWI and honors the many military veterans for their service to our country. It was in 1926 when Congress officially recognized it as the end of the war calling the day Armistice Day. Like in France, and in 1938, it became an official holiday, primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I. But that all changed when WWII and the Korean War took place. On June 1, 1954, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress amended the commemoration yet again by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” so the day would honor American veterans of all wars.

SHARING STORIES… Don Oderkirk, U.S. Navy veteran, delivering the stories of local veterans at the VFW Post #1137 Veterans Day event. (TCR Photo by Angela Widdis)

Two local events

The Watervliet VFW Post #1137 hosted a room full of veterans and their guests on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 11:00 a.m. in honor of Veterans Day.

The service was opened by Chaplin Dave Haase, the current pastor of the Riverside United Methodist Church and a veteran himself. He said, “Enkindle within us a flame of selfless, an unwavering devotion to duty, that we may never be found wanting in those qualities of spirit and mind which alone are able to preserve our homes, the peace of our nation, and the tranquility of the world.” Haase’s benediction reminded the crowd to “act as living memorials to those who served by redirecting our lives to our country and to the world as its citizens”.

Speaker, Don Oderkirk, shared stories of local veterans who displayed great courage, dedication, and bravery during war times. They included stories of Otto Helwig, Arthur Helwig, Stanley Suwarsky, and Willis Bouma to name a few.

The bugle tune, Taps, was performed by Jerry Oliver to close out the ceremony.

The Daughters of the American Revolution Algonquin Chapter held a wreath-laying ceremony at 1:00 p.m. on Nov. 11, 2020 along the bluff in St. Joseph at the WWI Memorial that is set behind and to the left of the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” statue, and at the Korean War Memorial further south along the bluff.

Laying the wreath on the Korean War memorial was Korean War veteran, Don Godfrey, of Stevensville. His daughter, Jane Godfrey Cunningham, the DAR’s Algonquin Chapter National Defense Chairperson, one of the speakers at the event, told the crowd of her beloved father as a young man in the service.

John Izak had the honor of laying the wreath at the WWI memorial that lists the 100 men from the area that served.

As we have seen many countries have since changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to other names that are more suited to reflect their country’s celebration. However, the one thing that remains as a common thread is the fact that one’s service to their country is not forgotten, but rather celebrated and honored because WWI and the wars and conflicts that followed are multinational events that are recognized throughout the world in various ways because of the historic and patriotic significance they hold.

Local businesses adjust to latest round of COVID-19 restrictions

By Jon Bisnett

Tri-City businesses are working hard to remain profitable in the face of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services new tighter restrictions. The additional restrictions remain in effect through December 8.

The 3-week pause closed inside dining prompting The Panel Room in Hartford and newcomers, Local 3 Grill and Tap in Watervliet to add a limited delivery area in addition to takeout and curbside. The remainder of our local favorites is running takeout and curbside with in some cases a slight change of hours. Call for details or check social media.

Local retailers are open and need your help in the form of holiday shopping. This new round of business restrictions allows stylists to remain operating.

Health and governmental officials across the country join the CDC in begging families not to travel for Thanksgiving this year. Local health officials say that although a limited amount of cases have been detected in our local schools, the school is not typically the spreader. In the majority of cases it was a family birthday party, wedding, baby shower or church activity. The Thanksgiving holiday has all the earmarks of an “it can’t happen here” event that risks further spread specially to elder family members.

Join the CDC, Dr Fauci and health department officials’ best practices. Wear a mask, hand wash frequently and social distance. Stay home if you are ill or have COVID-19, or other respiratory illness symptoms. While those who are at highest risk of the virus should avoid any gatherings in their entirety.

National highlight

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will look quite a bit different this year, as it airs nationwide for the first time as a television-only event without an audience at 9:00 a.m. on NBC. Remote musical and Broadway performances and the Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes are still on tap.

The traditional 2.5-mile route through Manhattan will scale down to just two blocks; not pulled by handlers, rather towed by specially-designed precision driving vehicles. Grants for educators

Michigan teachers and educational staff are now eligible for a grant recognizing working additional time or expenses during the 2019-2020 school year due to the pandemic. Under Governor Whitmer’s programs, teachers could receive up to $500 while eligible support staff could receive up to $250. The 2021 state budget dedicated $53 million for the teacher grant, and $20 million for support staff.



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