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Return To In-Person Learning Helps Colorado Families With Special Needs Students

DENVER (CBS4) - As Denver puts off, again, a return to in-person learning for upper grade levels, the cost of learning at home is being weighed for all students. Nowhere is it possibly more difficult than among "multi-intensive" classes and dealing with children with special needs.

Deronn Turner knows it well. She and her husband have been trying to ensure their 10-year-old daughter Shepsira can learn.

"For children with special needs -- depending on what they have or what they're dealing with -- for her having Down Syndrome, the transition is very challenging for her. Because her being in the classroom gives her a consistent way of functioning all the time," Turner said.

There have been fits and starts learning at home. A computer is no substitute for human contact, no matter how well designed the program.

"I love my daughter dearly, but she doesn't have impulse control," explained her mother Deronn. "We had to create a structure for her."

remote-learning Deronn Turner
(credit: CBS)

At times, she would burn out. Once, her mother called the school and said that was enough for the day, her daughter could do no more. Another time, her daughter stood up and danced for a while like her big sister who dances at Denver School of the Arts.

"When she has to do school at the house, she's like, 'I'm not doing school today. I'm at home,'" says Deronn.

In her neighborhood, there are other difficulties. The internet flashes off at times.

"The systems of educating, especially for Black and brown students, have never been equitable," says her mother.

Her daughter in high school will be in AP class and then the connection goes out. In the era of COVID, she believes there needs to be different priorities for such services. "It has to be made on not money, but need."

The way they've learned to try to teach Shepsira involves changing plans.

"She learns and she processes information, she just processes it differently," said her mother Deronn. "A lot of the things she learns have to be very repetitive."

Contact with professionals at school is a help. Deronn pays tribute to Shepsira's teacher. Last week Shepsira returned to in-person learning at Cole Arts and Science Academy where she's in the 5th grade. It is a better situation for a child with Down Syndrome, but Shepsira does not have the serious medical risks of some children who are being kept at home. There are many levels of learning challenges and many levels of medical risk. But her mother is thankful for the people who work with her daughter. It's been a hard time, but each new experience with her daughter is a rich one.

"I couldn't have a better gift. That's what I think of her. I couldn't have a better more valuable gift because she teaches me how to function in the world."

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