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[Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of contributions from our members and friends about the hidden costs of the COVID crisis. You can read more about our symposium and how to contribute here.]
Not every kid is able to learn on an iPad. Not every kid can work independently. Some kids need one-on-one therapy with trained teachers and therapists. Right now, it feels like we’re failing those kids.
I’m the father of an eight-year-old non-verbal autistic son. My wife and I recently spent a significant amount of time working with the school district to find an appropriate school for him. Given his difficulties, this was no small task. His prior school situation could not handle him anymore. Finally, we found what we hoped would be a good fit, with strong teachers and therapists that could handle him.
Not long after my son started the new school, the governor closed schools because of this pandemic. My wife and I were upset and disappointed, but we understood. While there were no cases in our son’s school or our local district, this disease was rampant in our area of New York. They asked for two weeks to “flatten the curve”. We understood and were willing to give them that.
Then it was a month… Then it was another month…. Then it became indefinite. Now, there is even uncertainty about September and next year.
The curve has been flattened, but my son is still not allowed to be educated.
My son can’t understand why he isn’t in school. His anxiety is apparent. The tantrums have gotten worse. The behaviors have increased. Skills we’ve spent years working on have regressed. We’ve dealt. Every day is different. When there is a good day we fortunately forget about the bad days, but the bad days are increasing. This is not sustainable for him. He needs his school.
“Essential” businesses are open and allowed to operate with workers in close proximity and interacting with the general public. Our leaders have come up with plans for restaurants, golf courses, public transportation, and seemingly every other aspect of society. Schools are an afterthought. They are just closed. Possibly indefinitely.
My son’s education is essential. Special Education classrooms are essential. Summer Session for Special Needs kids is essential. There needs to be a plan.
Here is what I want our public officials to know: I am willing to do what is necessary within reason. However, if you are keeping my child from his right to an education, then you need a good reason and you need to articulate it. Your reason cannot be general and cannot be speculative. Why can’t my son go to his school? How was this decided? What evidence was used? Have you factored my child’s anxiety and regression into your decision?
At this point, blanket school closures are unacceptable and a violation of our rights. Our Special Needs kids are being harmed.
The curve has been flattened. The hospitals are not overwhelmed. We’ve done our part. When we calculate the risk going forward, we need to include the damage to our kids not being educated.
Stop talking about September. Our Special Needs Kids need teachers and therapists. Open the schools.
– Michael A. Vicario