State of Our Schools: Remote learning on the spectrum

State of our Schools

(WETM-TV) — In 2020, students were forced out of their classrooms and into their homes in front of a computer screen. This change has impacted millions of students, especially those on the spectrum.

“It’s been a struggle,” said Suzette Morgan, a parent of a child with autism. “I know she was a little confused last year when she all of a sudden was unable to attend in-person learning.”

Morgan is the mother of nine year old Aubrianna Morgan. Aubrianna has autism and has been struggling with remote learning.

When learning moved to remote, Morgan said her daughter was having a difficult time transitioning and said in-person learning was important.

“She depends on that,” Morgan said. “She gets her services through school which includes speech, physical therapy and occupational therapy. So when that had to go from in school to virtual it was very stressful for her. She depends on a schedule.”

Morgan said her daughter is on a Individualized Education Program (IEP). She said Aubrianna’s grades have gone down.

“It showed that she hasn’t achieved anything and she’s regressed in a lot of things,” Morgan said. “It’s mainly the physical things that she has regressed in. I know speech, she does really good with that. Physical therapy she has a lot of issues with her legs and muscles and I’ve noticed it’s taken a really big toll on her.”

She said teachers at Aubrianna’s school have been very helpful with trying to keep her focused.

One Special Education teacher in the City of Elmira said teachers are doing all they can to ensure students are being taught and to alleviate stress on parents and students.

“We’ve had a tremendous effort, like communication, between parents and our teachers,” said Kim Sanford, Special Education Teacher. “I know I make tons of phone calls to parents, just say ‘hey what are you doing? How’s Johnny doing with virtual learning?’ We’re being creative and looking for any opportunity to help our students succeed in any way we can.”

Sanford said everyone learns differently and at their own pace. She said she has seen some students on the spectrum blossom while learning remotely.

“They’re in that routine now,” Sanford said. “They have that structure at home and it’s all set for them.”

Some parents have decided to stop in-person learning and homeschool their children.

“With distance learning, we would have to be on their time table and have to do the assignments that they wanted done,” said Ashley Walker, parent of a child with autism. “When everything happened in March, I came to realize that if it were to come to that in Fall, she probably wouldn’t do well.”

Walker is the teacher and month to eight year old Anastyn Walker.

“It’s hard to separating my role as mom and teacher,” Walker said. “It’s not her school, it’s not her friends, it’s not her teachers. She’s still surrounded by our walls, her siblings are still here. The distraction of home is still here.

Anastyn has autism and has been struggling with remote learning as well.

“She’s always been a straight A student,” Walker said. “She’s always been at the top of her class. While I think she’s doing well, I don’t think she’s doing as well as she would be if she were in school. I think the emotional connection she had at school, was a huge part of her thriving. Over the year, I have really learned how my daughter learns things.”

Walker also said, “I’ve seen her struggle more with writing, a little bit more with creativity, a little bit with more reading comprehension. Things that she’s always been on top of, I’m seeing her struggle now.”

Walker told 18 News, she is concerned how Anastyn will do in school when in-person learning resumes.

“We had worked for years in therapy, in multiple therapies on how to be confident and how to be social, and how to interact with people,” Walker said. “With her being autistic, that’s hard for her. Socially, I am a little worried what her transition for her back to school would look like.”

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