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Virtual learning creates challenges for students with disabilities

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Virtual learning is a challenge for some students, especially those who have disabilities. The Indiana Department of Education estimates about 165,000 students in Indiana have disabilities. So many students require additional support in and out of the classroom. But with virtual learning, some may be missing out on those vital resources.

Virtual learning is the new normal for many families. While safety is the top priority for the move, some fear what the costs of staying out of the classroom will be.

“I don’t know if there are any easy answers but it has to be better than this,” said parent Regina Smith.

Smith’s son is one of the lucky ones, and has in-person learning twice a week. He just started 9th grade. Moving up from middle school to high school has its challenges. But a student with learning disabilities who has to adapt to a new normal presents even more challenges.

“With this barrier and with limited support I don’t know how that’s going to happen without a lot of catching up in a lot of work,” said Smith.

The Arc of Indiana works with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For months they’ve been taking calls from anxious parents wondering how to best help their children. Factoring the abrupt end to the school year, major fears center on learning regression and inability to interact with peers.

“I think it’s overwhelming, it’s a new environment, it’s not structured and then some kids need that additional one-on-one help,” said Kim Dodson of The Arc of Indiana.

The Indiana Department of Education has compiled a list of resources for parents who have students with disabilities. But so far there’s no widespread action to address disabled students around the state. It’s being left to individual districts.

“We want to make sure that decisions are made on what is best for the student, not what’s most convenient for the school but what is best for the student because at the heart of all of this is that student,” said Dodson.

On top of the challenges the students face, parents are also having to learn a variety of virtual platforms to assist children. In some cases it’s created additional anxiety.