Special needs individuals face challenges with school closures

Those with special needs face challenges with school closure
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 6:10 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The Alabama Department of Mental Health mandated that all special needs schools stay closed through August 31st due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state. This has been a challenge for some of those students and their families.

“It has flipped our children’s worlds upside down, it has flipped our worlds upside down, it has made our lives extremely tough,” said Melissa Galloway, parent of a student at Vivian B Adams School.

Galloway’s son, Matthew, is nonverbal with severe autism. Galloway wants special needs schooling to have the same options as public schools.

“If you do want to send your kid to school in public school, you have that option,” Galloway said. “I do not have that option and other special needs parents don’t have that option because we’re not given the option.”

Like him and other individuals with special needs, they rely on having a routine and therapy. Since the forced school closure four months ago, their daily routine has changed drastically. Options for therapy have been limited. Galloway said virtual therapy and learning is not realistic for her son.

“For other children that may watch a screen or do virtual learning I think it’s okay,” Galloway said. “For children like my son, that doesn’t leave us much of an option because he’s not one to look at a screen.”

Vivian B Adams School Director Hannah Parker understands the issues COVID-19 has caused.

“We will always put safety first, that is our number one goal,” Parker said. “While we know that people with special needs when they get out of their routine it is more difficult for them and I know the parents are facing some challenges at home.”

Parker said individuals with special needs are in constant need of reminder of daily living skills.

Since the school cannot open in August, they are going to try to offer virtual learning for the time being.

“We have a chance to really make this program neat and some fun activities for them to hopefully get them connected back to us so that when they do come back it’s a smoother transition for them,” Parker said.

Parker said they have received some feedback from parents through a survey and not everyone is ready for their children to return to class.

“We have the most vulnerable population and a lot of ours have underlying health conditions and if they were to contract virus it would be difficult for them to overcome it,” Parker said.

Parker said it’s not just the students ready to return.

“We have not forgotten about anybody; we miss going to school every day and we miss our individuals,” Parker said.

When the Vivian B Adams is able to reopen, they will require staff to wear masks and encourage their students too as well. They will also enforce social distancing and do temperature checks.

Parker said she is hopeful to hear more about when the school can reopen toward the end of August and will tell parents when they can open their doors back up.

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