Special needs families fighting for return to the classroom; backed by Wash U doctor

COVID and the Classroom

ST. LOUIS – In the fight for our children’s education, many parents fear special needs students are suffering the most. A Washington University doctor and researcher appears to be an agreement.

Kerry Cook has two children in the Rockwood School District. Six-year-old Khloe, who’s in first grade, and seven-year-old William, who receives special services because of his autism diagnosis.

Kerry says William is not getting the individualized help he’s required to by law. She says it’s just not possible virtually. School’s always been hard; but at home, Kerry says it’s impossible.

She recently recorded an example of his struggles.

Meanwhile, Khloe used to love school. Kerry also captured video of Khloe’s struggles as she hid under a table.

“It’s too hard? Will you come here and let me help you? Please?” Kerry said.

Another mom, Kelly Kildae, is speaking out.

“It’s really hard on our developmentally disabled kids,” she said.

Kildae’s special needs son Jack, is a sixth-grader in the Brentwood School District.

“I think the solution is to get students with developmental disabilities back into the school building where they can receive services in person,” she said.

Brentwood schools this week began one hour a day of in-person learning for special needs students. Kildae says it’s far from enough.

“It’s just asking a lot to ask our kids to multitask the way they’re being asked to multitask and when they, you know, have a disability,” she said.

These parents are backed by Washington University’s Dr. John Constantino, who’s the co-director of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.

Constantino wrote a letter, published August 28 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, that says, in part: “Although there is public awareness of some of the challenges imposed by the pandemic on individuals with disabilities, the totality of the impact on a family or a person with such disabilities can go unrecognized, even by professionals.”

He added that special needs children “deserve priority for resources to safely resume in-person learning.”

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