homeschooling

Coronavirus Heaps More Challenges on Families of Kids With Disabilities

“For special needs families, it isn’t just a case of boredom or cabin fever, it’s really about managing their child’s physical safety”

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Homeschooling has its challenges for any family, but for the Winick family of Andover, Massachusetts, remote learning has meant not only being 9-year-old Parker’s teacher, but also his behavioral, speech, and occupational therapist.

“He has a co-diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and ADHD,” said Parker’s dad, T.J. Winick.

Jo Ann Simons, the president and CEO of the Northeast Arc, a Danvers-based organization that supports people with disabilities, says her staff, and those at many other groups dedicated to serving people with disabilities, had to transition from hours of daily therapy to a much shorter schedule of virtual therapy sessions.

“Nothing prepared us for the pandemic,” Simons said.

That's led to families having to take "care of their family members 24/7 and that’s an incredible stress and demand,” she said.

Parker’s parents, T.J. and Kerri, have come up with a schedule, but balancing working from home can be physically and emotionally draining.

“They’re doing everything they can do to help us at home and to help Parker,” said Kerri, “but it’s not the same as being at school.”

Two Wellesley teenagers made hundreds of cards for seniors with encouraging messages amid the coronavirus crisis.

T.J. said, “For special needs families, it isn’t just a case of boredom or cabin fever, it’s really about managing their child’s physical safety.”

Parker has school year-round, so the Winicks are hopeful his summer program will be able to happen in July – but at this point they’re just taking it day by day.

“He’s a strong kiddo and every day he amazes us,” said Kerri, beaming with pride. “He has such a big heart, he’s trying so hard to understand everything that’s going on around him, and we’re doing the best we can to help explain everything that’s happening.”

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