Parents of special needs children have concerns about schools reopening


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Parents with special needs children are concerned of what schooling will look like for their kids once schools reopen.

Proposals for school district’s reopening plans were due at noon on Friday and will give parents a better idea of what to expect. For Cathy Weiss and her family, this is a milestone year for her son, Jonah. Jonah has developmental disabilities.

“Special ed kids are always the ones that are sort of forgotten about. And if you aren’t a parent that is very vocal and is willing to fight for every single thing that you can get for them, like we are, then they will definitely get lost in the shuffle,” said Weiss.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many families like the Weiss’s. The stay-at-home mom has filled in not only as teacher when classrooms went virtual, but as nurse and therapist for her son.

“I’m very busy attending to his physical need most of the time during the day,” Weiss said. “All those other services that we would normally be getting every single day has all stopped.”

What school will look like for her son when it reopens comes with joy but also worry for Weiss. She hopes her son will once again go, in-person, to school full-time.

“I just know that he’s feeling the impact of all of this. He really feels it,” Weiss said.

The clock is winding down for Jonah, who is 20-years old. He only has a few months to regain any losses to his development interrupted by virtual learning. Jonah becomes ineligible for public education services provided by schools when he turns 21.

Weiss has found an ally in Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara whose own son has autism and is non-verbal.

“When you talk about kids with disabilities, especially kids with autism, routine is everything,” Santabarbara said.

The lawmaker said his son Michael is lucky to have a few years left until he ages out of the school system. Though Santabarbara said he has concerns about students who have turned 21 while schools were closed and have now aged out of the system.

“They will not be able to come back and not make up for any of this, essentially losing an entire year of education. That final year is very crucial to what’s going to happen next,” Santabarbara said.

The Assemblyman has urged Governor Andrew Cuomo in a letter to allow students with developmental disabilities and special needs to have one more year of learning.

“They are entitled to deliver those services and they have not,” Santabarbara said. “They deserve more time to make up for what they’ve lost.”

Santabarbara said he has not received a response. School districts should know by next week if their proposals were accepted.

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