Covid-19 impact on Special Ed in Grosse Pointe

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In efforts to provide additional support for students with disabilities, educators in Wayne County schools are implementing virtual options for students and families.

Now that hybrid instruction is available in Grosse Pointe, Miller said educators have to allocate their expertise to help parents with at-home and educational tasks that are practiced in a classroom setting.

With increasing demand for parental support, Karen Rowzee, a social worker who services Wayne County schools, said many skills such as life skills and educational tasks don’t always translate at home. 

As students are forced to adapt to a different learning model, Rowzee adds that some parents struggle to balance their job with their child’s daily schedule. 

“Even though we encourage the parents to get the kids up, wash their face and give them breakfast, that doesn’t always work,” Rowzee said. “The parents don’t always follow through, and for some of the students that (lack of routine), has been really challenging.” 

Special education services cover a wide range of needs from helping children who struggle academically, assisting those with visual or hearing impairments and supporting those who have more severe cognitive disabilities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 14 percent of  students in the public school system have a cognitive disability and 7.1 million individuals nationwide who receive services under the Disabilities Education Act. 

Aimee Miller, a behavioral specialist in the Grosse Pointe Public School System, said the disruption in face-to-face services impacts not only the students, but the families who now care for their child at home. 

“Pretty much all of the support stopped when the pandemic was heavy, so that was really difficult,” Miller said. “People who would receive care after school, 24/7 care, respite care, community living services — those types of things for kids who had daily living skill needs stopped in some areas, and it hasn’t really started back up.” 

For more of Miller’s interview, click here.

Virtual support for students

While the Grosse Pointe Public School System introduces hybrid learning options, other schools in Lansing and Hamtramck are still virtual. 

In efforts to prioritize parental and student support, Lansing High School paraprofessional Henrietta DuCap said it’s been a learning curve for students and faculty. 

Whether it be scheduling virtual resource room hours or meeting with students individually via Zoom, DuCap said it is difficult to see what additional support students are lacking. 

“As adults, we kind of mask what our true mental health is sometimes, especially in front of a camera,” DuCap said. “And the thing is, the kids do, too. So what they might be feeling at that given time — if you aren’t available and if you’re not in the same room as them — it is really, really hard to figure out where they are emotionally.” 

Outsourcing in Wayne County Schools

In districts like in Wayne County, Rowzee said she sees an increasing demand for educational services, as well as ever-growing socio-economic divides in the lower-income district. 

While educators and specialists see difficulties in online instruction, Rowzee said that school districts in Hamtramck are implementing services to help students and their families beyond the classroom. 

“We do provide food — breakfast and lunch for the kids,” Rowzee said. “There’s a timeframe in the morning when the parents can come to the individual schools and pick up box meals. We try to (offer) support because we have a lot of low-income families.”

Similarly in Grosse Pointe schools, Miller said Grosse Pointe uses outside resources like The Arc to provide support outside of virtual instruction. These services include outdoor interaction and getting students in special education engaged with more hands-on activities.