Plenty of students are struggling with distance learning as the pandemic drags on, but those with learning disabilities face particular hurdles.
“A lot of children with disabilities lack the self-regulation and the communication skills to focus on receiving instruction through a computer or tablet,” says Christopher J. Lemons, an associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who joined the faculty in 2019 as part of a new GSE initiative on learning differences and the future of special education. “These families are really in the hardest situation right now.”
On this episode of School’s In, Lemons joins GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the challenges facing students with various learning disabilities during a time of remote learning and what parents can do to help manage overwhelming demands.
Lemons points out that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the primary federal legislation addressing special education, requires that all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education – regardless of whether students are learning in the classroom or remotely during the pandemic.
“That law is still in place, period,” says Lemons, whose recent research focuses on developing and evaluating reading interventions for students with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. “The idea that it’s difficult or challenging—that’s not the parents’ problem. The law entitles that child to get the services to meet their needs, and the school has to figure out how to do that.”
He also emphasizes the need for pandemic relief funding to include support earmarked for students with disabilities, who are likely to need additional services to prevent significant learning loss.
“These are students who are going to need a lot of interventions,” he says. “These are students who need to be prioritized.”
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