Your Local Indiana Attorneys

Pandemic’s Impact on Students with Disabilities

Special Needs Child Services in the Age of COVID-19

Over the past year, Attorney Tom Blessing received countless phone calls from parents of special needs students whose schools had closed, suspended in-person instruction, or gone “virtual.”

For a handful of students who struggle with bullying or school-based anxiety, these changes came as a much-welcomed break from the feelings of apprehension, vulnerability, and dread they faced every morning before going to school for in-person instruction.

These students actually did better with e-learning than many others. But for most children in special education, the reality is that they simply cannot learn by sitting in front of an iPad or computer and getting “taught” through a screen. And forget about getting any meaningful services like speech, occupational or physical therapy “remotely.” It’s just not going to happen.

As a result, e-learning has been a demonstrable failure that feels ineffective and frustrating for students and parents alike.

A Mother’s Fight for Her Son

Last fall, a southern Indiana mom named Stacy contacted Tom Blessing about her then 16-year-old son, Mason, who is challenged with Down Syndrome and Autism.

Mason’s school had been closed since March 2020 and informed parents over the summer that it planned to stay closed in the fall and teach students using a virtual e-learning program. This was disheartening news for Stacy because her son’s school had already been closed for several months. Mason’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) gave him direct, one-on-one support, occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), and speech therapy. As such, the school’s announcement meant that, for the time being at least, it would not be implementing Mason’s IEP as written when school “re-opened.”

Fortunately, our team worked with Mason’s school to establish with a creative solution. The terms are confidential, but we found a way for him to receive the services and support he requires to learn.

After we resolved Mason’s case, Stacy and Tom sat down with nationally-recognized education journalist and author, Jo Napolitano, to share her experience. Click here to read the full story. You should also check out Jo’s new book, The School I Deserve: Six Young Refugees and Their Fight for Equality in America, now available for pre-order.

For a free consultation regarding your child’s rights at school, feel free to contact education law attorney Tom Blessing directly at [email protected] or at 317.417.0809.