In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters. And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing education is proving to be very difficult.
More than two months after schools across the United States began closing in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the shutdown is taking a profound toll on the nation's system of education, Reuters found by surveying nearly 60 school districts serving some 2.8 million students.
Almost overnight, public education in the United States has shrunk to a shell of its former self, the review found, with teacher instruction, grading, attendance, special education and meal services for hungry children slashed back or gutted altogether.
The survey encompassed school districts from large urban communities, such as Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Houston Independent School District, to the smallest rural settings, including San Jon Municipal Schools in eastern New Mexico and Park County School District 6 in Cody, Wyoming. The survey reflects what is happening only in those districts that responded.
About a third of districts aren't providing federally required services to their special needs students, such as physical and occupational therapy, like they did before schools were closed. "One of the many things keeping me up at night is, how are we providing education to those who most need it?" asked Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent of the North Shore School District 112 outside Chicago.
A May 27 release from Parents Together Action:
ParentsTogether Action, a national parent-led organization with over 2 million members, has released the results of a survey of more than 1,500 families around the country regarding the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on kids’ education. The results reveal huge disparities in the success of remote learning depending on family income, and show that remote learning is jeopardizing the education of our most vulnerable students. This crisis has exposed and exacerbated existing inequities and millions of families have been left without the resources they need to help their kids succeed.
Just 20% of parents whose children have an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or are entitled to other special education services say that they are receiving those services. 39% are not receiving any support at all. Children who qualify for individual learning plans are also:
- Twice as likely as their peers to be doing little or no remote learning (35% vs. 17%).
- Twice as likely to say that distance learning is going poorly (40% vs. 19% for those without IEPs).
- Almost twice as concerned about their kids’ mental health (40% vs. 23% for those without IEPs).