Challenging times for children with disabilities and their families

Gretchen Everhart School. Photo courtesy WFSU News

Adjusting to virtual classes can be extremely difficult, especially during a pandemic. For children with disabilities and other challenges it can definitely be a difficult task.

A parent at Gretchen Everhart School, a K-12 school that caters to children and adults with disabilities, shares her experience on what it is like to have seven children and cater to a child with disabilities who is currently learning remotely.

The pandemic has been a hindrance to a certain extent because my child does not have the one-on-one that he needs. He has autism, ADHD, and he is non-verbal so he has a hard time focusing,” said the Gretchen Everhart School parent, who asked that her name not be used.

The parent also described how she has to give her child full attention when he is in class. When she has to cater to her other children while helping him with class, it can be tough.

I have to sit with him during his classes because my husband has to work and we have six other children. I also have a kindergartner who I need to give attention to as well so when she needs help, I would have to tell the teacher that I will have to come back and sometimes he will not focus or pay attention when I am not there,” the parent said.

The parent shared her worries and fears of letting her child attend the brick and mortar (face-to-face) instruction on school grounds.

I have chosen to have my child go back to brick and mortar and I am scared to death because I feel like out of all of my children he is the one I feel the most fearful of. Some people might have COVID and do not know it and I have fear because he is always touching things and putting his hands in his mouth,” she said.

According to a New York Times story, studies have shown that an intellectual disability itself isnt a risk factor for COVID-19 but kids with developmental disabilities often have other underlying medical conditions that could be.”

The article also said that studies showed that in 2017, people with pneumonia and intellectual disabilities were dying at 5.8 times higher rate. Pneumonia is considered one of the complications of COVID-19.

The principal of Gretchen Everhart School, Jane Floyd Bullen, explained how they are handling and working with students, parents and the administration during this time.

We have a combination of both brick and mortar or face to face environments where we schedule staff to work hands on with students and the digital academy in which students can work remotely but our students need to be supervised by parents,” Floyd said.

Floyd also explained how the school and the district are trying to serve students and adhere to CDC guidelines.

The school district provided a good wealth of training for staff and helped put together learning kits for students. Students at home will have a box of materials for students to interact with when teachers are instructing,” Floyd said.

The principal has also described how guidelines and procedures are ever changing and can be plenty to try and adjust to.

Things keep changing and it is hard to keep up with procedures held at the district and state level and you have to keep up with the continuous nature of the beast. For example, being able to keep up for the protocol of if you get exposed or even providing comfort to the staff because this environment is very difficult. We sometimes have to change children and feed them and we cannot do that at six feet apart,” Floyd said.