Families Of Special Needs Students Prepare For Virtual School

The coronavirus pandemic has been especially disruptive for special education students

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Remote learning comes with challenges for many families, but especially so for the families of the more than 500,000 Texas children with special needs or learning disorders.

Liliana Dominguez's son, 9-year-old son Leo, has down syndrome and depends on the help he gets at school to succeed.

Dominguez says when school suddenly ended in the spring, so did Leo's schedule and structured classroom environment, which are crucial to his development as a non-verbal child with special needs.

"He's been actually trying to give me his backpack a few times!" said Dominguez, whose husband lost his job during the pandemic and now home-schools Leo.

The coronavirus pandemic has been especially disruptive for special education students.

In Texas, 587,000 students with disorders, ranging from autism to ADHD, are on individualized educational plans.

The Texas Education Agency said in May that schools must continue supporting those learning plans as best as possible, however, experts say parents will carry the load.

Clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Kenya Hameed, at the Child Mind Institute suggests that parents get ahead as early as possible.

Plan with your child's teacher about a week out.

Do school work in a separate room, if possible, free of distractions, including siblings.

"They would rather play video games and watch tv and when you're in school, you have that structured setting where you don't have those types of options," said Dr. Hameed.

Resources may depend on school to school but parents can find online tools and tips from advocacy groups, like the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

Dominguez says her son's teacher has given her the most guidance and peace of mind.

"Every situation is unique so keep that open communication," said Dominguez.

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