CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Some parents of students with special needs say their children learn best when they are with a class and a teacher.
Virtual learning can be a real challenge for children with disabilities. Parents who spoke with Channel 9 said they have questions about how they can learn efficiently.
Cabarrus County parent Oria-Adams is trying to sort through what virtual learning will look like for her son, who was diagnosed with conditions including A.D.H.D. and anxiety.
There’s no communication,” Adams said. “There are no plans. There is nothing for us parents to do.”
Oria-Adams is a student advocate in the county and echoed parents concerned about the lack of detail or information on plans to accommodate all students remotely, especially those with specific learning plans, such as Individualized Education Programs.
Oria-Adams said she has contacted advocates, school liaisons and leaders but still has no answers.
“Let’s make sure every single person is represented and accounted for,” Oria-Adams said. “Taken care of, and I just don’t see that happening right now. Fourteen days school starts. I have no plan for my son.
Dr. Shelley Dean, who operates a clinic-based day school in Charlotte, said all students have IEPs.
“We definitely reinvented therapy, because we had to,” said Dean, with Crossway Pediatric Therapy.
“It can be done. It’s just we’re running out of time because school was supposed to be starting. I think they had to just make a decision and go with it. And I think we should just go with it and do our best to support each other,” Dean said.
Dean’s suggesting redefining therapy during the pandemic and reframing a student’s goals.
“For example, an IEP might say something about social skills or fine motor skills in an academic setting, and now we’re actually using those skills and applying them to them being home,” Dean said.
“I’m not asking for him to be at school all day,” parent Erika Clark said. “I’m not asking the school to be my babysitter. I want my son to learn.”
She is concerned about her 8-year-old son, Jediah, who has a form of autism.
Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan C requires 100% online learning for public school students at this point in the pandemic. Clark said Jediah’s IEP cannot be accomplished through remote learning.
“I went to the school,” Clark said. “I got all the equipment. We logged into all of the websites that they told us to log on to, but when it came to having him sit there and do the work, I knew it wasn’t going to work for him.”
Clark said her son can’t speak for himself and requires a special learning plan and his needs won’t be met through remote learning at his school in Cabarrus County Schools.
“He needs speech therapy,” Clark said. “I can’t give him that. He needs occupational therapy. I can’t give him that. If they can’t give it to them in a school setting, they need to give it to them in a clinical setting. It’s their right.”
The chairman of the board of education in the Clarks' district, Cabarrus County Schools, said the administration looking into the issue.
Crystal Grant, interim director for the Children's Law Clinic at Duke University, offered advice for parents, such as Clark.
“The first thing that all parents who have children with disabilities, and who acquire an IEP, should know is that they still retain their special education rights during a pandemic,” Grant said.
She suggests parents consider if the IEP can be achieved as written, which for some, may be possible remotely. Another question is if there a change to the frequency of services, could that be addressed with an addendum?
She says if there’s a substantial change to a student’s learning plan, it might be time to request a meeting about their IEP with the school or district.
“Even though a school may be remote for all children, or most children, if a child with disabilities needs in-person instruction to receive appropriate instruction, there can be accommodations for that through the IEP,” Grant said.
“It’s not even just autism,” Clark said. “It’s any type of learning disability that takes extra time, extra concentration, that extra care.”
Channel 9 reached out to the Cabarrus County School Board Chair about this issue and he said this is something the administration is looking into.
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