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Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Resources and Advice for Families With Special Needs Kids

Irving — Students in Irving ISD schools have been at home since March 13: first for spring break, and now for distance learning.

Many parents are struggling to find things to keep their children busy while they work from home, attempting to ensure their children are completing online assignments, provide healthy meals, and calm fears as life feels unpredictable right now. For students with disabilities, however, this extended break potentially offers additional challenges and some hidden opportunities. 

According to Federal law, all students who have a disability that impacts their ability to learn qualify for special education services. Irving ISD provides support in occupational therapy, speech therapy, social support, modified work, etc. Additionally, depending on the disability and plan, teachers are required to modify work to allow the student to learn and be successful. During the time of distance learning, these plans must still be followed. Many parents of students with disabilities worry their children will regress. The parents feel pressure to make up for that gap in education.

Dr. Tracey Brown, Irving ISD director of Guidance, encourages parents to talk with their children about their children’s worries. Additionally, she suggests parents “keep things simple. Have conversations with our children but be sure to keep them age and ability appropriate.” 
AJ Crawford, a Special Education Inclusion/case manager at Singley High School understands the challenges students and parents are facing.

“It is very tough to navigate through the unknown,” Crawford said. “One of the challenges we are seeing is a lot of students do not have access to the internet or computers. We passed out computers and hot spots to students to address this. For those students who need the teacher-student interaction, we are using Zoom for video conferences and Google Classroom.” 

Additionally, teachers in many classes are offering Zoom times for video conferences for the students to talk to each other socially. The teachers understand students may feel isolated and are working to help quell that feeling. 

Emily Lindsey is a freshman at Irving High School.

“Staying at home during this time can be hard when you do not get to see your family and friends,” Lindsey said. “But we have technology that is able to help us to connect with each other. My teacher Mr. Cherry always tells us we can reach out any time, and he always writes back to our emails.

“It is different for people who have not had to stay at home like I have. People may think this is so bad, but this is how we are keeping everyone safe. I really am glad people are staying home, because they are keeping me safe. Being at home is not as bad as you think it is. For someone like me, I would rather be at home and stay safe.”

Clarissa Lindsey, Emily’s mother, felt prepared for social distancing and shelter in place. 

“Because of Emily’s disabilities, we stay home every year during cold and flu season,”
Clarissa said. “Emily has multiple disabilities, including requiring three open heart surgeries, asplenia, had a stroke, and kidney issues. She is immuno-compromised, and so we always have to be careful about viruses.

“We have never called it social distancing. This is just our life during this time of year. We have a routine for this. We change our clothes when we come home. We only have one person who goes to run errands. Emily never leaves the house. We do not eat out. We do not wear shoes in our house, no hugging, etc. Our other daughter Kate is not allowed to visit friends or have people over. We live with Lysol, vinegar, and bleach year-round.

“Normally we do not have electronic learning; this is new to the district. Years past, we had a month of no school, and then had a home-bound teacher for one hour a day until she is able to go back to school. This year we are grateful for electronic learning. I am hopeful they will be able to use electronic distance learning next year when she is homebound again to be able to use Zoom and email.”

Shannon Pugh is the director of Arise Special Needs Ministry at Irving Bible Church. Her role at the church is to support people with disabilities and their families.

“The biggest stress for these families is they lost their entire support network,” Pugh said. “There is no more therapy or respite offered right now. We are working to connect on Facebook and to have video calls with the children so they can see my face, to ensure the families we are still here to support them. Many of the people we support struggle with a change or lack of routine, so we are trying to schedule things regularly.” 
Pugh believes there is an opportunity for others as we go through this changing time.

“This is a great way for other families to learn what it is like to have a child with special needs,” Pugh said. “Many of the families I support already have to stay at home a lot, and have to provide more support for their children, etc. Now other families are able to empathize with that. As we build the structure for online groups and support, we will be able to continue to use that support for those who need it.

“I encourage others to choose to sacrificially serve even when things are hard. It is good to have a sense of purpose and serving gives us a sense of hope. Reach out to those people you know who are caring for a loved one with a disability. We need to see them and to acknowledge their struggles.”