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Families Of Children With Special Needs Struggle To Adjust To Distance Learning, Lack Of Health Services

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — It's a trying time for families with young children, but families of children with special needs feel especially hard hit with both remote learning and most health services online.

Remote learning for 5-year-old Holton can be hard for his dad, Eric Weingrad, to watch.

"The problem is, with my son and kids like Holton, is they are not aware of the world around them, so an iPad is just not sufficient," Eric Weingrad said.

Holton, who is blind and cannot walk or talk, started his first year at a Los Angele Unified School District school just last year.

"He heard the kids," Weingrad said. "He could feel the rumbling of the floor as they ran around. He could hear the teachers and feel their touch, and all that is gone."

Adriane Ransom's 5-year-old son George has poor vision and physical and cognitive delays. He started kindergarten at an LAUSD school last week.

"The whole idea of an individualized education plan is to really look at each individual kid, and what it feels like is happening is that there is a blanket way the district is approaching us," she said.

Weingrad says the work Holton has been assigned has been inappropriate.

"For instance, my son blind, can't communicate, and can't being given projects by the LAUSD to color and draw and fill in questions and answers. It's absurd," Weingrad said.

The pandemic has also impacted the health services that kids like Holton and George receive. Holton's therapies have been suspended since March and he just started telehealth last week.

"This week, after only two sessions, they informed us that they believe he is best served in person so they want to hold and just wait until we can be in person," Weingrad said.

ANCOR, a trade group that represents disability services providers, recently conducted a survey of nearly 200 providers nationwide and found that 77% said they shut down or discontinued programs due to challenges related to COVID.

"Actually 16% of those who said they closed programs expected that those services would not open," said ANCOR's Donna Martin.

Martin says that will also impact the services that do survive.

"It's not necessarily a given that the organizations that remain will have the capacity to absorb that increase," she said.

Brandi Williams' daughter Christy started kindergarten last week.

"It's been a struggle because I am having to figure out things to teach her myself."

Williams is a single mom.

"Christy is special needs but she does learn so I want her to be the best she can be," Williams said,

LAUSD has a section on the district's website that has resources for parents of children with special needs. Lausd also has a hotline from 8 to 4 weekdays.

More resources on back-to-school distance learning can be found here.


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