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Beyond the classroom: Special education during remote learning

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(WSIL) -- We're nearing a year since remote learning started for schools across the country and in our region. Now, we're highlighting students with learning differences and how their education needs are being met.

News 3's Brooke Schlyer spoke to one local family, who is keeping their children at home despite having the option for hybrid classes

It's to protect them from the virus, the anxiety of social distancing and wearing a mask. The parents also feel the one-on-one time is better serving their daughter in special education.

After 15 years of being nurse, Sheila Myers turned in her scrubs and is now a stay-at-home mom.

Sheila Myers, mother of two Shawnee School District students

It's something that she couldn't have imagined, but neither is the pandemic or its impacts like remote learning.

Myers has two daughters who are students of the Shawnee School District. Allie is a freshman, and Zoe in the 6th grade.

Many already know the struggles of virtual education for parents and teachers, but what about when the student has a learning difference like Zoe?

"Sometimes she needs to be retaught two or three times to understand exactly what she needs to do," Myers says.

The 12-year-old is just one of around 40 students at the district in special education.

Karen Schaefer, Junior and High school Principal at the Shawnee School District

Karen Schaefer, Junior and High school Principal at the Shawnee School District, says teachers see a range of learning differences.

"Many of them might be things like ADHD or another health impairment that is impacting their ability to learn," she further clarifies.

Other areas include math and writing, as well as, some students who have physical disabilities.

To better explain what it's like for some of those students is Michelle Kibby.

She's a clinical neuropsychologist and professor at Southern Illinois University, who became interested in this field of work after seeing family members with ADHD and having her own obstacles in elementary school.

Michelle Kibby, clinical neuropsychologist and professor at SIU

Kibby says reading and writing differences play a big role in completing assignments.

"They affect English and Language Arts those classes you would expect them to affect," she notes. "But they also affect reading problems in Science and Social Studies."

There are two forms of ADHD that students can be diagnosed with:

  • Those with the first have a hard time concentrating and get easily distracted.
  • The second, have problems with attention and hyperactivity

Her research has found that it's very likely kids with reading disabilities also have ADHD.

"If you look at how often they occur in the general population, it's under 10-percent for each disorder," Kibby breaks down the findings. "But you get a co-occurrence of about 40%."

To help, there are some things that special education teachers at the Shawnee School District have implemented into their remote learning.

Tiffany Schultz, Special Education teacher at Shawnee School District

Tiffany Schultz, who works with junior high students, likes her students to take rests from long stints of virtual meetings and assignments.

"I encourage the students to have them get up, move around, go outside and run around for a minute," she explains of her teaching style. "Do some sort of activity to give themselves a brain break."

Finding ways to better reach these students is something teachers across the region are continuing to do throughout the pandemic.

News 3 is taking a closer look at how administrators are providing services for special education students other than their school work like required therapies.

Tune in February 5 at 6 a.m. on News 3 This Morning to watch Part 2 of this Special Report.





Brooke Schlyer

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