Remote learning creates challenges for families with special needs students

Jill Konopka
Updated: May 23, 2020 01:57 PM
Created: May 22, 2020 07:27 PM

SCOTIA -- Students with special needs rely on schools for the personal, hands-on attention of specialists.

However, remote learning has created challenges for both students and parents.


Gov. Andrew cuomo unveiled 'Re-Imagine Education in New York" two months into the pandemic, and put together an advisory panel, but special needs organizations and a local mom wonder if their community is being overlooked.

Kay Williams, a mother of two from Scotia, said working with her 11-year-old special needs child, Anneka, is a fulltime job during the pandemic.

"This has been one of the hardest things I've ever done is being her teacher," said Kay.

Math, fractions actually, are on the table at home for Kay and Anneka. 

The coronavirus pandemic closed school in mid-March.

"When she's focused, some days she does really good work with me," said Kay. "It's hit or miss other days, it's a complete wash."

The Lincoln Elementary fifth grader is on the autism spectrum.

"I can only do so much and I worry about her transition into middle school, and how she's going to be affected by this," said Kay.

Including remote learning for summer school.

"We were really hoping there would be some sort of in person summer program for her," said Kay.

In-home instruction isn't an easy task.

"And we're the lucky ones, because I'm temporarily laid off. There's absolutely no way I can work and teach her," said Kay.

They miss school and Anneka's teachers, but try to stay engaged over e-mail.

"They've been very receptive. But this is not a format that works at all for Anneka," said Kay.

Assem. Angelo Santabarbara whose own son has autism, is asking Gov. Cuomo by letter for New York schools to consider options that support special needs students.

Similar sentiment from New York State Industries for the Disabled.

"There's always more that can be done for the disabled community whether in a pandemic or not," said Maureen O'Brien from NYSID.

There's also worry from the head of the Autism Society in the Capital Region.

"What's the representation on "Re-Imagine Education" in terms of children with disabilities because we don't see that representation and we need to figure out a way for families," said Janine Kruiswijk, Executive Director of the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region.

NewsChannel 13 has reached out to the Governor's press office and Deputy Communications Director Jason Conwall provided the following statement: 

"The health and safety of all our students is our top priority. While nothing replaces face-to-face learning, every school is expected to provide distance learning options for their students, including those with disabilities and special needs, and this includes summer school and extended school year. We will work with districts to make sure students with disabilities and special needs get the individualized education they are entitled to." 

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