Parents and educators prep for remote special education

JACKSON, MI. (WILX) - Parents of special needs students wonder how their children will be set up for remote learning for the rest of the school year.

The Lyle Torrant Center in Jackson.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer's order closing schools requires districts to 'strive in good faith' to provide equal access for learning and meet individual educational plans for those students with disabilities, but what that looks like exactly is unclear for parents like Rita Walters.

"Historically this is a population that has been grossly underserved in educational institutions and I'm not comfortable with allowing that to continue to happen," said Walters.

Walters has a 22-year-old daughter with severe cerebral palsy who attends Heartwood School in Mason. She wrote a letter to the Governor on her behalf.

"She already limited. Her muscles do not work as yours does and so the idea that she would not have any type of physical support worries me that she might become even more restricted," said Walters.

She feels her daughter and many others are being left behind.

"They should not be viewed as secondary. Students with disabilities should be as much of a priority as those in general education," said Walters.

All districts will decide their own approach on how to complete individualized education plans and Section 504 plans for special education students either on the phone or online

Some schools will start from scratch, while others like The Lyle Torrant Center in Jackson have already started. With all 255 special education students learning from home, Principal Amy Rogers and her staff are transitioning occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech pathology, and all educational programs.

"Relationships are key, so being able to have that conversation with the parent to say 'hey this is what we suggest. Here are some tools you can use at home' while we will go into the school to pick up equipment. We've already done that for some families. There are so many tools right in our own homes that we can use so we're going to focus on what is available to us in our own environments respecting the orders that the Governor has given us," said Rogers.

Most teaching is done through a sensory board, which staff has made available to the parents. They've also created a separate website for remote learning.

"It's consistency. It's empathy for understanding that things are different and it's going to be us doing everything that we can to keep that connection alive," said Rogers.

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