The coronavirus pandemic has affected all kids to some degree. But it's meant big changes for those with special needs, and for those who work with them.
Meghan Feeman is a music therapist at WoodsEdge Learning Center in Portage. The school run by the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency serves students with disabilities including autism. Feeman says not being able to see students in person is a challenge. To make do, she creates videos and sends material home for kids and their families to work on there.
"All families - everyone is overloaded right now. And so, you just kind of have to trust that they'll get out to the people that need them and use them, and do my best to put them on platforms that are easy for families to find."
WoodsEdge Director Angela Telfer says COVID-19 has created many challenges but, "Our teachers have made deeper connections with families during this time and have understood what are their basic needs, and really just readjusted the kinds of things we're helping students learn from a distance that would best meet the family's needs right now."
Feeman says the pandemic challenges kids with autism and other disabilities because it disrupts their daily routines. To compensate, Feeman says she and other WoodsEdge staff members try to help them become more independent at home.
"That is a very important skill, just to be able to realize that you can do something on your own at home for fun. It sounds maybe foreign to other people but it's a skill that has to be developed."
WoodsEdge is normally a year-round school. But, because of the pandemic, its students have been away from classrooms longer than most have ever experienced before. Telfer says they and her staff are coping. But she admits that there will be a lot of catching up when students can return.
"We aren't going to know for sure how far behind some of their other skills might be until we're able to have them back in school and truly assess that, which we'll do. And then we'll have to adjust to make sure that we're meeting all of those needs."
Telfer says WoodsEdge also helps students and their families get access to other basics like food.