Students in special education programs navigate distance learning through COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has created significant challenges for teachers and students as they adapt to distance learning. Parents of students with disabilities face additional hurdles.

Five-year-old Owen is enrolled in a special education preschool program, and when schools were forced to transition to distance learning, it was a new challenge.

"There was quite a bit of regression," said his mother, Shauna Hudson. "I just didn't really feel that 30 minutes on a Zoom meeting and a couple of YouTube videos where helping Owen get where he needs to be," she added.

Hudson said the worksheets and videos were not engaging Owen, and sometimes required supplies she didn't have. So she started researching and found a creative way for him to learn from home through educational subscription boxes that deliver curriculum once a month, including The Preschool Box, Ivy Kids, and Green Kids Crafts.

"They come with everything," she said. "A lot of stuff that he would come home from preschool with."

Hudson said she also noticed Owen did not engage in attention-seeking behavior because the projects are very interactive.

Hudson hopes school districts can come up with similar creative ideas. She also advocated for her son to get more one-on-one instruction, stressing it's important for all children, especially children with disabilities.

Every family has unique needs. Some may be struggling financially or maybe don't have access to the internet. There are advocacy groups to equip and guide families in the right direction.

TASK is an organization that specializes in special education support for people with disabilities from birth to age 26.

"We have family support specialists who are either parents or relatives of people who have disabilities...They will work one-on-one with the parent to help them understand what their options are," said TASK project manager, Paula West-Hernandez.

They help parents and school districts work together.

Fiesta Educativa is an organization that primarily helps Latino families with training and information.

"Over the past three months... we've trained families to log into Zoom work, the basics of the program so that they're able to participate not only in our workshops, but also in other different community workshops out there," said Edith Espíritu who stressed communication between school districts and families is key. "Trying to keep the parents at peace, to be in constant communication with them listening to what their concerns are as well," said Espíritu.
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