For students with special needs, a lack of school and routine has been devastating

School-aged children across New Jersey have been learning virtually for several weeks after all schools were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

News 12 Staff

May 13, 2020, 2:20 AM

Updated 1,441 days ago

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School-aged children across New Jersey have been learning virtually for several weeks after all schools were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Many parents say that the transition to homeschooling has been challenging – but maybe more of a challenge for students with special needs.
Six-year-old Michael Weiss has autism and is nonverbal. His mother Jessica says that since the pandemic, her son has been regressing. Several weeks ago, he was able to eat ice cream properly with a spoon and even speak.
“Two weeks before everything was shut he started saying a couple of words on his own, appropriately. And that’s, that’s huge for him,” she says.
But since the stay-at-home orders were put into effect, Jessica says that Michael – like many children with special needs – is not getting the proper education and therapy that he deserves. She says that it is breaking her heart.
“The meltdowns are increasing. His routine is off, so he’s off,” she says.
The Sparta family also has a 2-year-old and 2-month-old at home. Jessica says that she knows that students of all abilities across the state are struggling. She says that a lack of specialized lessons, regular therapy and a routine have been even more of a challenge for children like Michael and their parents.
“I do what I can, but I’m not a teacher or therapist. I do my best,” she says. “Anytime I see him have one of those meltdowns, I get so angry because, in my opinion, it’s going too far now. And I think the risks are not worth being home and locked in for two months.”
Jessica says that while she would like them to, she knows that schools won’t reopen this school year. She now wants Gov. Phil Murphy to allow camps to reopen this summer. She says that it would give her son some of his normal routines back – and hopefully allow him to recover some of the progress that he had made.
The state has not made any decisions on if summer camps or summer school will open. The New Jersey Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment.


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