This mom says virtual learning is not working for her son with Down syndrome. She has some ideas on how to flip the system.

A boy sits alone.
A boy sits alone.

For most parents, the shift from having their children do in-person schooling to moving into virtual learning has been a major adjustment — a necessarily evil, if you will, considering the current situation with COVID-19.

While the adjustment has been hard for many, the mother of a boy who has Down syndrome said her son, along with other students with disabilities, have been left frustrated and even further behind.

Allison Wohl, in a Washington Post op-ed, said the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep inequities in our society, but particularly in access to quality education.

She explained that distance learning for her son Julian, who recently finished fourth grade at a public school in Maryland, was a disaster.

“It turned a happy, independent, and curious child into an anxious and withdrawn one, in large part because of the school’s failure to provide appropriate access to both academic and social-emotional learning or the necessary services and supports and modifications that are essential to his education,” she wrote.

At Julian’s school, he received the Individualized Education Program, which is federally mandated for students with special needs. Though Wohl said she didn’t expect the district to replicate Julian’s program, she did expect it would do better than to just create a schedule that met compliance metrics yet failed to provide meaningful instruction or access to the curriculum at the same time he was being isolated from his classmates.

“For Julian and many students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, meaningful access means providing services and support so that he can access (to) the general education curriculum and actively participate in the school’s community — a critical step to helping him build a life of belonging in this world,” Wohl said.

She suggests that it will take creativity to meet students’ needs, but that the shift in the way children are learning now is an opportunity to use technology to increase access to instruction or social-emotional learning.


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