#AdvocacyMatters: Empty Classrooms, Unique Solutions

October 16, 2020 / #AdvocacyMatters


Adapting to online school can be hard for all children, but what if your child’s academic success depended on seeing their teachers and peers face-to-face? Students with disabilities often rely on one-on-one interaction with their instructors in order to succeed in school. For so many children, these opportunities have disappeared in favor of online learning amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A family in Akron chose a creative approach to help solve this problem for their eight-year-old daughter, Lyra, who has Down syndrome. Holly Christensen and Max Thomas, Lyra’s parents, were worried about losing the progress they made in her learning when schools started to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Christensen stated, “She had been doing so well just before everything shut down. Then we watched that all sort of regress as all of the services, all of the interaction with her faculty and her classmates stopped.”

Lyra’s parents knew they had to act quickly in order to keep her education on track after her school switched to remote learning for the first nine weeks. Holly and Max both work full time and were not able to provide Lyra with the assistance she needed themselves. This inspired them to create a pop-up classroom in their backyard and hire a personal teacher to ensure that Lyra still had the individualized attention that she needed.

Their approach is admirable and demonstrates just how far parents will go for their children. However, the responsibility of providing an equitable education should never fall solely on the shoulders of families. Children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education and shouldn’t be left behind to struggle alone. Education is not one size fits all and schools should be more conscientious now than ever of the needs of their most vulnerable students.

If your family is struggling with finding appropriate educational resources during COVID-19, visit our website at https://www.disabilityrightsohio.org/covid-education for more information and resources. We won’t stop fighting until every child with a disability has an equal and appropriate public educational experience, because #AdvocacyMatters.

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