Distance Learning is a ‘Nightmare’ for Many Special Needs Kids. These Businesses Are Creating Tools to Help.
By Frances Dodds for Entrepreneur.com
Rob Gorski is a single dad. He lives with his three autistic sons — Gavin, 20, Elliot, 14, and Emmett, 12 — in Canton, Ohio. Because Gavin is immunocompromised, the family has been on total lockdown for 172 days. And the way Gorski describes the last four months is: “Chaos. Not like controlled or organized chaos. It’s sort of a nightmarish scenario for a lot of parents like myself because, for autistic kids specifically, routine is vital to everybody being able to function. They were used to going to school and having this process and hanging out with their friends, and they lost all of that.”
Before the pandemic, the boys went to a charter school that specializes in autism education, but when Gorski realized that they would be doing distance learning for the long haul, he found a more established virtual school. Last week, Elliot and Emmett started at Ohio Connections Academy, a free online public school. “They’re working out some kinks due to the unexpected influx of students,” Gorski says. “I have mixed feelings on how much responsibility falls on parents, but their teachers were calling me today to make sure everything’s okay, and it seems like a cool experience. They sort of manage their own schedules during the day, and there’s electives they can take. I just have to get my kids over the emotional roadblock of making this change when it’s not something they wanted to do.”
Gorski’s youngest son Emmett has particularly struggled with adjusting to the new normal. “With COVID, there’s a lot of increased anxiety,” Gorski says, “Emmett is a brilliant kid, but he has a lot of anxiety and gets frustrated easily. He’s very sensory oriented, so clothing can be painful on his skin. Feeding him has always been difficult. Meltdowns have been a very common occurrence in our house, several times a day. And now that he’s not able to see family and friends and things like that we are seeing more meltdowns and outbursts. So just yesterday, actually, I told him, dammit, we’re gonna start back with Mightier.”
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