In the article “The Impact of COVID-19 School Closures on Children with Disabilities” found on Georgetown University Early Childhood Intervention Professional Development Center website, Danielle Shapiro explores the impact of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic on education. The author then focuses on the negative influence of the closures on students with disabilities. The author then concludes with measures needed to be undertaken to support better access to educational instruction for students with disabilities.
The article’s primary concern is the provision of education to students with disabilities during the period of school closures. Shapiro (2020) informs that education guidelines in California require schools to provide “high-quality education opportunities to the extent feasible.” Ideally, this means that schools must do their best to provide educational instruction to children even during school closures. Shapiro (2020) laments that while teachers try to provide learning by sending learning packets and engaging the students through online teaching, the two are far removed from classroom instruction and they put parents in the teaching position. Worse still is that parents have to juggle between other responsibilities and different student learning levels, which is not only challenging but also eventually means that students will fall behind in school.
The most extremely affected party in the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic are students with disabilities. Shapiro (2020) highlights that the guidelines in California require the provision of quality education to students with an extension to children with disabilities. While it is already a challenge to provide education at home for children with no disabilities, the situation is even worse for children with disabilities. Shapiro (2020) notes that it is impossible to provide the services required for learning for children with disabilities at home. Aside from the fact that parents may not be well-equipped to handle the learning needs of these students, closures and COVID-19 measures that include social distancing and quarantine means that these students with disabilities get little to no contact with specialists. Since these children need that contact, they have missed out on learning with the closure of schools. Moreover, the closures and guidelines mean that the students cannot get access to behaviorists, language therapists, and special education instructors. Lastly, the fact that schools have provided little to no instruction to parents and teachers for handling students with special needs exacerbates the situation for parents.
Other articles help in painting the picture for the education difficulties students with disabilities and their parents undergo because of the school closures. For example, Levine (2020) highlights the plight of some parents, who aside from recovering from the novel coronavirus, must also deal with their children who have disabilities. Levine (2020) points to the challenges such parents face, among them the fear that their children have no access to special education instructors, social workers, behaviorists, occupational, physical, and speech therapists. The closures mean that students with disabilities will have no access to these specialists in the near foreseeable future; a fact that frightens most parents. On the other hand, Bakken et al. (2020) inform that states are letting school districts decide how to implement distance learning, a fact that raises a lot of questions on the education of students with disabilities. The concern here is especially on the visible and recurrent constraints present in the education of students with disabilities, most of which have not been addressed by school districts. Even more confusion for the districts stems from the lack of federal guidance on the provision of services to students with disabilities.
The closures provide an opportunity and educational relevance for school districts to address existing challenges to the access of education for students with special needs. Aside from the basic requirement that schools must provide adequate and high-quality instruction, educationist and school districts can use the opportunity to build on previous guidelines to support students with disabilities. According to Bakken et al. (2020), such support in line with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can include ensuring that virtual/distance learning platforms, content, and curriculum are not only accessible but also have features embedded within them that are in line with universal design for learning (UDL). UDL provides a framework that improves and optimizes teaching and learning for all people hinged on scientific insights on human learning. It includes the provision of multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression during the learning process, which engage everyone despite their abilities.
Support for students with disabilities must also engage parents, who by the closures have become primary education providers. Bakken et al. (2020) note that school districts and education professionals should promote the use of provisional Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). These should be those specially designed for and with parents that provide a framework for accommodations, interventions, and supplementary aids and services for dealing with individual students, taking into account the student’s abilities.
Shapiro’s article highlights the plight of students with disabilities at present following school closures due to COVID-19. Parents with students with disabilities are especially scared given their lack of skill in handling the students. Moreover, the school assignment instructions and online learning modes offered by schools during this time do not cater for the needs of students with disabilities. Following UDL and IEP programs, however, provide hope for students with learning disabilities given the individualized focus of the interventions.
Bakken, K. et al. (2020). Special education and COVID-19 school closures. The Century Foundation. Retrieved from https://tcf.org/content/commentary/special-education-covid-19-school-closures/?session=1.
Levine, H. (2020). Parents and schools are struggling to care for kids with special needs. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/parenting/kids-special-needs-coronavirus.html.
Shapiro, D. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 school closures on children with disabilities. Georgetown University Early Childhood Intervention Professional Development Center. Retrieved from https://www.learningei.org/blog/2020/the-impact-of-covid-19-school-closures-on-children-with-disabilities.