Parent of special needs student shares concerns over school reopening plans

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 10:08 PM CDT
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RUSTON, La. (KNOE) -New school plans mean new challenges for parents and students. Parents of students with special needs are seeing even greater challenges for their children’s health and educational retention.

“How are we going to keep Jillian and her classmates safe?” said Gina Jones, whose daughter has special needs.

Gina Jones’ 17-year-old daughter Jillian was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, is nonverbal, low functioning, and has other physical and intellectual disabilities.

For Jones and other parents, their students have specialized instructional care. Jones said that students with special needs have different instructional options including 504 accommodation, individualized education plans with self-contained classrooms, and behavioral plans.

“She gets physical therapy speech therapy, occupational therapy, and adaptive PE, all of that is important to her,” Jones said.

Jones said that Jillian’s self-contained classroom can have anywhere between 8-10 students. Many of whom may need special attention especially if they need to be changed. In addition, she said that hygiene is a concern.

Jones also said being nonverbal can be an issue for students who can’t describe their symptoms if they are exposed to COVID-19.

“Being nonverbal is something that I had feared the least but is actually the most consequential because in and of itself it’s a life-threatening condition that a child can’t identify if they’re in pain or where it hurts,” she said.

Jones said that the latest reopening plans in several districts is concerning due to the rising number of cases. She said she hopes that all students of all abilities have the best plans for their health and their progress.

“School is not just ABC’S and counting school is also social interaction and the coronavirus is scary for parents and children,” she said.

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