In these times, NO school is set up to be totally virtual, which leaves our special education students lost in the shuffle." ~ Mary Ann Whitehill
As a small business owner and a mom, I've been hyper focused on how the pandemic is affecting other small businesses and families. But since my own kids are grown, I must admit I haven't thought very much about how the education system is handling this crisis, until now. Nearly every school in the country has had to shift their curriculum from a traditional classroom setting to online learning in a very short time, which I'm sure has been quite a challenge for all involved. However one demographic is particularly in danger of falling through the cracks - children with special needs.
Meet Mary Ann Whitehill - an Educational Advocate for special needs children who works with parents who need assistance to make sure that their children get the education that they deserve under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). She assures that districts follow the laws and make necessary accomodations to educate these children properly, and on their level.
"An Advocate's role is to represent the student and parents in any meeting with school administrators. In these meetings it is important for me to identify the problems the child is having in school and home, assist in the determination of accommodations for the child and ensure implementation by the educational institution. Special education and the child's placement need to be tailored to meet the needs of each individual student. The services and supports a child receives may be different from what another child receives. It's all about individualization. What is important is giving kids resources they need to make progress in school. In these times, NO school is set up to be totally virtual, which leaves our special education students lost in the shuffle."
"The schools are clueless on how they need to help and/or educate our special needs kids, and they are doing this by the seat of their pants. They are taking the children's IEP's (Individualized Education Program) - which are government documents - and changing them to meet their own needs. They are doing this out of fear of a parent coming back and suing them for compensatory education. They are changing services and goals for these children which they are not allowed to do."
"Furthermore, once schools are allowed to come back in session I am afraid the districts will again not educate these children and will not put in services that each child had before all of this happened. It will set these special needs children up for failure in school, and I will have a difficult fight to get the school to comply with the laws that are already in place to protect these children. The bottom line is that parents need to know that their child's IEP is a government document, and to not let the school district make changes that they do not understand."
"The biggest thing anyone can do to help their special needs students is to have patience. They are so used to having structure in a classroom, and suddenly they no longer have that structure nor do they have socialization with their friends. Do not expect them to progress a lot during this time; all we are hoping for is for them not to regress."
If you are a parent of a special needs child and need assistance, you can contact
Mary Ann Whitehill at
Tracy Miller is a family, newborn, & fine art photographer serving Pittsburgh & surrounding communities in Pennsylvania including:
Greensburg, Latrobe, Irwin, North Huntingdon, Ligonier, Penn Township, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Monroeville, Penn-Trafford, Squirrel Hill, Wexford, Murrysville, and beyond.