Parents of special needs students adapting to virtual learning

PITTSBURGH — It’s a challenging school year for all parents, but parents of students with special needs, face additional hurdles to ensuring their children’s success.

Channel 11′s Amy Marcinkiewicz checked in at the Children’s Institute Day School where students are in their fourth week of instruction. Marcinkiewicz’s daughter Emma attends the school along with her best friends Kai and Chloe.

Most of the students attend four days per week. The Day School made many modifications for increased safety. Kids stay in the same classroom throughout the day, desks are socially distanced, and plexiglass has been hung. So far, there have been no COVID-19 cases at the school.

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The Day School also offers a 100% virtual option, which Emma and her friends are doing.

“I don’t want to expose him to other students and teachers. He won’t wear a mask. It just was not comfortable,” said Astrid Arroyo, Kai’s mother.

Marcinkiewicz asked several moms to video some of the online sessions including Kai with his therapist trying new foods, Emma doing physical therapy in the family pool and Chloe talking with her teacher.

The moms are impressed with how their children are handling the change and thriving.

“It’s been nice that the kids started the Zoom classes back in March. We have maintained that all summer. The kids love each other. You can see it on their faces. Their eyes light up. They break out in belly laughs. It’s just infectious. It makes all of us happy,” said Ronna Riffle, Chloe’s mom.

Parents have morphed into teachers and therapists, working hands-on with their children who can’t be left alone at the screen.

Marcinkiewicz said it’s not an ideal situation but it is working, and they are making the most of it. The kids – who most times don’t do well with change – are succeeding and that’s what learning is all about, regardless of whether it’s happening in-person or online.

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