How In-Person Learning Can Positively Impact Students with Special Needs

As the parent of a student with Special Needs, I have a lot of mixed feelings about my son attending in-person learning again. Part of me is really glad to see my son back on campus. Last school year brought our family many ups and downs and online learning was difficult for my son, so we definitely experienced a lot more downs. However, after his first week of school, I finally saw my son happy and thriving again. He changed so much within that first week and being on campus was great for him. His attitude changed once he got to see his friends and you could tell how enthusiastic he was to be back on campus. 

During the pandemic, my son’s mental health suffered. He was depressed and was not himself. He struggled with the online learning platform the school provided and, as a result, he constantly asked, “ Is it  break time yet?” I would tell him he was being rude, but I also understand why he was not having a good time. My son’s IEP goals were not being met because they are designed to better interact with others and function on the playground. Aside from transitioning to online learning, his teacher quit about 3 months into the school year. Luckily, his new teacher after that tried her best to make the class as interactive as she could for all her IEPs. The new teacher did help my son achieve some of his IEP goals, but being on an online learning platform versus on campus was a lot for my son to handle.

I stopped working right before the pandemic and was able to be a stay-at-home mom for my kids during the pandemic. At the time, my 9-year-old son was in the 3rd grade and I have a rambunctious 3-year-old boy at home as well. My oldest son is the one with an IEP. Because I was home with my kids, I experienced firsthand how my son struggled with online learning. I would sit with him every day and help him log into his laptop. I tried teaching him how to use his laptop, but he never quite learned how to do it on his own and I think this was due to his learning disabilities. I was there during the low points when my son cried out of frustration and would say, “ I don’t understand this, I want to go back to school.” It was difficult to hear my son call himself stupid and have panic attacks because he didn’t have the right tools to understand what he was being taught. I tried my best to comfort him and redirect his behavior. And his teacher could only do so much to calm him down when the outbursts happened during class. He often had to leave class and come back when he felt better, which would take about an hour. To sum it up, my son lost the joy of learning and interacting with his peers.

I struggled for months about sending my son back to school and considered his needs. Other than being a special education student, my son has a low immune system. Pre-covid, he missed school a lot because he has asthma and allergies. And he has medication available at school in case of emergency, whether it’s an asthma attack or food allergy. During the pandemic, my family followed CDC guidelines and stay-at-home orders. My son has never been this healthy per se, but he never got sick during the pandemic because he was always home. I was and still am scared for my son’s safety and well-being at school, but I ultimately decided to send him back because I was terrified for his mental health. I had never seen him that low before and I never want him to experience that again. 

Since his school reopened, I’ve gotten letters from the administration notifying us that students have tested positive for Covid-19. However, the school does weekly Covid-19 tests for students and staff and is taking precautions in preventing the spread. No day is easy because my son could get infected at any moment while at school. For now, I feel like I made the right decision in sending my son back to school and if another stay-at-home order happens, I know I’ll be better prepared to help my son achieve his IEP goals.

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Somaya Sanchez

Somaya Sanchez

Somaya Sanchez , is a stay at home momtrepreneur .Having a child with a rare disease and then the child being diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder changed her life. Learning about Autism : it's just another way of learning. Going through the school system and advocating for her child's needs. Not settling for just one answer but getting second opinions.

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