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