Mother of special education student: ‘The dream of sending him to school is still there’

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Michigan parents and those across the country who have children with special education needs say they have struggled with virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kiri L. K. Salazar hopes the coronavirus vaccine helps students like her 16-year-old son, Alexei, who has severe autism and is nonverbal, return safely to school.

For students with physical or cognitive impairments, school leaders say the shift to remote instruction has posed far greater challenges.

The Grandville mom says remote learning has been an eye-opener. She has opted to keep Alexei virtual since March to avoid COVID-19.

“He still isn’t compliant with a mask,” Salazar said. “He isn’t capable of understanding that, you know, sneezing in someone’s face is inappropriate.”

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted education for every student in Michigan this school year as K-12 schools have transitioned in and out of remote learning since March in response to the pandemic. Special needs students are accustomed to structure, consistency and the hands-on attention from trained specialists.

Salazar said Alexei, who attends Grandville High School, used to love school. She said he enjoyed interacting with other students and swimming in the school’s pool but has adjusted well to life at home.

“The dream of sending him to school is still there,” Salazar said of having her son return to in-person learning. “It is much better for him to have continuity and the continuation of what we’ve been doing than sending him to school and yanking him back, sending him to school and yanking him back.

“And changing the game over and over and over again.”

RELATED: Virtual learning a ‘nightmare’ for special education students amid pandemic, parents say

She said they focus on basics like cooking, cleaning and participating in his online classes.

“I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t really able to teach him a whole lot of what is typical, so we’ve geared it more towards trying to have some words, try to practice vocabulary, and also incorporate things he would need to know for life,” she said.

“It’s hard to acknowledge limitations but it’s actually a lot more freeing when you do because you’re not forcing your child to do something he simply cannot do.”

School districts are federally mandated to provide the nation’s seven million students with disabilities an education designed for their individual needs under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

“I would like to send my son to school in the safest manner possible and I think people just have to be as kind as they can under the circumstances and hope for the best,’’ Salazar said.

More on MLive:

Michigan extremism a ‘dress rehearsal’ for Capitol riot, experts say

Michigan to vaccinate teachers, first responders, those over 65 starting Jan. 11

Betsy DeVos resigns from Trump Cabinet, citing attack on Capitol

Next Post

Mon Jan 4 , 2021