Parents: Remote therapy, learning not working for special-needs kids

Jennifer Johnson's 7-year-old son, Adam, has autism. Learning and getting his speech, physical, and occupational therapies remotely on a computer has proved to be impossible.

"He gets frustrated more easily. He cries and wants to see his friends and go back to school," she said. "He often shuts down or he runs away to get something to show his friends because he doesn't realize when he gets up and walks away, they can't see him."

It has also been extremely difficult for Chris George and his 16-year-old son, Harry, who also has autism.

"It's difficult to talk about," George said.

George and his wife have watched their son regress during the pandemic. The break in Harry's normal routine has been disruptive for him.

"He ends up doing the rubbing of the palms, the flapping, and the moaning," George said.

Remote learning is continuing through the summer for special-needs children across the state.

"When we've already had three months to show this is not working, to extend it another three months is simply sacrificing our kids," said state Assembly Member Melissa Miller of Nassau County. Miller's son, 20-year-old Oliver, has special needs.

"Even though I have the computer with his physical therapist telling me, 'Put your hand here.  Oh no, now move it over. No, now move it back. Now, do you feel that thing?' I'm afraid I'm going to hurt him," Miller said.

Miller sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to reconsider remote learning and services for special-needs children and get them back into a classroom setting with proper face shields and hand sanitizer for teachers and therapists.

Johnson said her son's class has only eight students, which means they can easily make social distancing work in a classroom.

FOX 5 NY reached out to the governor, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Education. The DOE responded: "We are prioritizing summer learning for all of our students with 12-month IEPs, and we will offer in-person support as soon as health conditions permit."

"They desperately, desperately need the one-on-one interaction," Miller said.


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