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The Washington Post: Special education students are not just falling behind in the pandemic — they’re losing key skills, parents say

August 7, 2020

Photo of Antwon Gibson with his foster parents.

With roughly a month left until an all-virtual start to DC’s academic year, Children’s Law Center has heard from many District families anxious that their children, particularly children with special needs or without access to digital devices, will struggle to participate in distance learning. We believe that ensuring DC’s most vulnerable children—including those with special needs, English language learners, and students experiencing homelessness — are able to participate in school, access their IEPs and receive developmental supports is critical. That’s why CLC client Antwon Gibson and his foster parents spoke with Perry Stein of the Washington Post to share Antwon’s challenges and regression during remote learning.

Antwon Gibson’s public high school in Northeast Washington didn’t even attempt to teach his “independent living” class virtually this spring. The gregarious 18-year-old has an intellectual disability and reads and performs math below grade level. He’s been out of the classroom since schools closed in March and now requires more help from his family to break down multi-syllabic words.

Parents across the country who have students with special education needs say the stakes are high if schools do not reopen soon. They say their children are not just falling behind academically but are missing developmental milestones and losing key skills necessary for an independent life.

In the conversations about whether to reopen school buildings — or even how to shape virtual learning — parents of special education students fear that the unique needs of their children are not being urgently considered.

“His teachers and school really did an admirable job this spring. But it paled as a substitute for the level of education engagement that is really required for this group of children,” said Kevin McGilly, Gibson’s foster parent. “It’s not sustainable long term without significant harm to this student population.” 

Read the full article here.

Photo credit: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post