special education

What Will Remote Learning Mean for Special Needs Students?

Parents who rely on schools to provide their children with extra care are worried they may not get the services the kids need if classes are remote

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“Right now I’m dealing with three kids, in three different schools, with three different needs,” said Hillary Minicucci of Methuen, Massachusetts.

Minicucci is like a lot of parents right now, juggling her work schedule and her husband’s while trying to prepare for whatever school will look like for their three children in the fall.

But her oldest son, 9-year-old Cole, also has special needs – and she’s especially concerned about what school will be like for him.

“I think his progression is going to be a lot slower than it was prior to this,” Minicucci said.

For now, Cole’s school is hybrid, with kids split between an afternoon and a morning session.

“I’m concerned about how they’re going to effectively execute his IEP [individualized education program], which is a legal binding document,” said Minicucci. “There’s no way that three hours of in-person instruction a day ... can meet his needs and meet his goals.”

Amid the debate on reopening schools, teachers in one New Hampshire school district are being targeted with online threats, according to the state teacher's association.

And Minicucci has watched as some districts initially planning for a hybrid model have gone fully remote.

While most of those districts still plan to provide some level of in-person services for special needs students, there are now a few school districts that are considering even making special education fully remote for the fall -- Worcester students who require the most "in-person support instructional support" will also be learning remotely through at least Nov. 16, the district said Thursday.

“I am terrified that there’s going to be another wave,” said Minicucci, “and that they’re going to pull these kids out of schools again, these kids that desperately need in-person instruction and there’s going to be more regression.”

Minicucci says she does not blame the school districts for this at all, but she hopes there will be some creative solutions so children with special needs like Cole don’t fall through the cracks.

“They’re trying to figure things out, we’re trying to figure things out,” said Minicucci, “and I think it’s important that we all need to work together.”

And another variable – it’s unclear at this point just how much school reopening plans will change between when those plans are submitted to the state Friday and when schools start back up in the fall.

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