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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Online Instruction and Special Ed in the DC Suburbs

 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 services is proving to be very difficult.

Heather Graf at WJLA-TV in Washington:
With less than two weeks to go until the first day of virtual learning for Fairfax County Public Schools, Wednesday's town hall meeting focused on special education. During the nearly hour-long conversation, several parents expressed concerns that distance learning just won't work for students with special needs.
"I have a son who's in the enhanced autism classroom and he has not been able to successfully access any schooling virtually. He gets quite angry, honestly, violent in front of the screen. He will throw the screen, kick the screen," said one frustrated parent who called into the meeting. "So my question is, what accommodations can be made for students like him? And if not, what's going to be done to make up for the thirty hours a week of special education that he has not been able to access since March?"
In response, Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand said Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to providing in-person instruction for small groups of vulnerable students, "as soon as possible".

Lauren DeMarco WTTG-TV:
... Greg has autism and when the pandemic began he couldn’t understand why everything stopped. He came down with a few medical issues including an ear infection and his parents think it was all just too much.
"He started to combat the stress and trauma with catatonic freezes," says Rowse.
Greg was diagnosed with a condition called Autism Related Catatonia.
There is little known about the condition but doctors say it is serious.
Greg who had never in his life spent the night away from home has been in the hospital 46 days and counting. His parents are unable to visit due to the COVID outbreak.
Karen Boden says her typically happy 7th grader John is suffering.
He has high functioning autism but finds virtual class extremely frustrating and isn’t comfortable turning on his camera. Their tutor, Cameron Buckingham says at one point in the spring his teacher just gave up. "She got to a certain point where she just ended the call."
Both of these families want to see Montgomery County Schools allow in-person learning for special needs students. They believe it can and should be done safely with the proper precautions in place.