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Coronavirus creates fresh challenges for special education
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As the coronavirus pandemic radically alters the way of life Americans had before this year, special education faces a unique challenge.
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Schools specializing in the field are struggling to meet the needs of students who, in addition to regular classroom instruction, often require physical, speech and occupational therapy.
Carol Verdi, who oversees four schools as executive Vice President of Education at Heart Share, attributes the initial challenges to lack of training and specific guidelines that address the extended school closure caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Verdi’s schools have had to adapt to remote learning and find ways of supplementing daily education. This has included sending daily suggestions to parents on activities to do at home, establishing a YouTube Channel where teachers share informational videos and weekly calls from the school nurse.
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Remote learning, however, has yielded mixed results. Children with cognitive disabilities often have reduced attention spans that lessen the time they can successfully engage online. The effort is further complicated by lack of equipment.
“Not a lot of people have updated equipment,” said Melissa Montes, director of education at Heart Share First Step Pre-school. “The teachers and their assistants have to use their personal cellphones and computers. Some parents also don’t have devices.”
Although there have been efforts to supply students with devices, there is no guarantee that these will be received, Montes pointed out.