At Children’s Law Center, we have seen how the coronavirus pandemic has destabilized the lives, routines, and educations of many of the children we serve, particularly students with special needs. Existing racial and economic inequality have been further exacerbated by the crisis, and far too many children who were already struggling in school are falling even further behind. In an interview with Molly Hensley-Clancy for Buzzfeed News, Clarissa Hardy, the mother of a CLC client, discusses the challenges her son experiences with distance learning and her efforts to secure the services he needs.
That sudden absence of routine has also upended life for Khalil Hardy, who is 8. (His first name has been changed for this story.) Khalil is usually a happy kid, the kind who likes school.
“The virus has destroyed his world,” his mom, Clarissa, says.
Khalil, who is autistic, doesn’t understand why his routine has imploded. He doesn’t understand why he has to go to school online, why he has to sit in front of a computer for 45 minutes at a time. Every morning he wants to know: Is today the day I get to go see my school? See my classmates?
Sometimes, Clarissa says, he reaches out and tries to touch his teachers through the screen.
Like many kids with disabilities, especially those in school districts that were already struggling to provide adequate services, Khalil, who lives in Washington, DC, hasn’t been getting nearly enough of the services he’s entitled to, like speech and occupational therapy. His mom had already been working with a nonprofit legal group, the Children’s Law Center, to fight for the services he needed. Now technology, too, has become a huge barrier, along with the district’s already strapped resources.
With Khalil struggling, Clarissa did the only thing she could think of for her son: She went on Amazon and placed a bulk order, and then she cleared out her dining room and made it into a classroom. A place Khalil recognized — where he could feel safe.
Photo credit: BuzzFeed News article via the Hinkley family