Parents of students with special needs feel extra stress over back to school plans

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Most metro school districts are starting the year with virtual learning. But that is presenting a challenge for families with children who have special needs.

So many children require extra time and attention and in fact, it’s required that public schools provided it. Channel 2 anchor Justin Farmer met with some parents who are feeling out of options.

“Honestly, she was running away from the computer and it was a wrestling match to keep her near the computer.”

Elizabeth Foy is the mother of a 13-year-old with Down syndrome. Foy is also an accountant who works full time. She told Farmer she’s distraught about no in-person learning options for her child.

“You can’t apply a one size fits all approach to this population that has very specialized, specific, extensive needs,” she said.

Foy is hardly alone.

“The experience we had in the spring was a failure. My son is an upcoming freshman at Roswell High School in the fall. He is supposed to start virtually with a teacher never met,” Scott Jeffries said.

Jeffries is a past president of the non-profit Gigi’s Playhouse. It’s a local center providing activities and support for T-21 or Down Syndrome families. It’s designed to supplement education, not replace it.

These stressed parents are among the thousands reaching out to their districts, politicians and anyone as they try to get for their children what federal law requires.

“The schools have to provide education to our kids and part of that is providing the special education services above and beyond what they do for a typical child,”said Todd Hartle, who has a child in Decatur City Schools.

The families told Farmer they are open to any sorts of solutions.

“Our classrooms by nature are small. We’re talking five to six kids for most classrooms. They can open up for special education. They are doing it in other parts of the country,” Jeffries said.

“I talked to my daughter’s pediatrician last week that has been her pediatrician since the day she was born. She told me my daughter’s healthy and needs to be in school,” Foy said.