The wonderful parent holiday is back. It’s time for children to go back to school. We all have memories of reconnecting with friends, activities, teachers and buildings. There was comfort in both the routine and the rhythm of the school day. Many parents fell into a similar ritual of buying new clothes, bookbags and school supplies. Going to the area Walmart or box store and observing all of the items on the teachers “wish list for each class”.
However, this year there were additional and specific items that appear to reflect the tenure of the times. These items include masks, hand sanitizer, and facial shields. Many students need access to the internet and lap top computers as they only have direct access to the teachers on the “odd days”. The school environment also ranges from the sparse classes with desks spread out to busy hallways with bustling students in the middle and high schools.
The big question for parents of special needs students is how does this changed environment and politically charged issues of viruses and shots and masks impact my student. Is it safe to even send my child to school at all. With this question comes guilt and frustration as many do not have the patience nor the resources nor the time to provide adequate instruction to a child at home. Yet without the optional school choice are you actually risking your child’s life by sending him/her to school?
First, parents must realize that every child, home, and disability are unique. The resources, skills, experience and competency of the instructional staff are also unique. Consequently, these are some of the questions you must ask when making this decision:
a. How does the child feel about returning to school?
b. What is my child’s specific disability and what are his/her needs?
c. What health issues and behavior management issues increase the risk of COVID?
d. What supports does the educational environment posses to meet health and disability issues?
e. Does your child’s disability prevent him/her from wearing mask, washing, avoiding risks?
Second do the health risk mediate the lack of quality education that your child could obtain from the school environment. All of these choices and issues are very important. A child with intellectual disability and wheel chair bound is unable to remove the mask from his face and is at risk of choking or aspirating. The parents asked the school system to provide him with a waiver from wearing a mask because of the health risk. Despite support from the school nurse, the board and super intended refused to waive the requirement for the student. As a consequence, the parents pulled the child from the school but are appealing the decision. These active decisions, with the help of advocates, is allowing students to remain safe and parents to make wise decisions that apply to their specific child’s needs.