First an admission: I am writing this post on an iPad using a voice app called Dragon dictation. Second: I don’t like technology. Let me qualify that: I don’t like technology when it is used as an excuse to deny children the help that they need. A few years ago, two boys showed up at my school. Neither were verbal. Both were having tremendous difficulty in their classes. As it turned out, they had come from a homeschooling environment supported by a virtual special education program. The virtual RSP teacher visited the boys only a few times during their home school experience.  The speech therapist assessed one of them over the phone.

I will never forget our IEP meeting. The parents were upset with our assessment of the children. The school psychologist found one of them to be autistic. Eventually the parents signed the IEP and the boys were transferred to a more suitable school. In the meantime, however, they had missed valuable instruction. Time was wasted. Why? I think the parents were scared. They had two special needs boys and they were afraid of what might happen to them in the public schools.

I was scared two years ago when our son was diagnosed with autism. Being a special ed teacher, I knew how difficult the world of public special education could be. I was right to have reservations. We have had to fight every inch of the way to get our son the services that he needs. But we got them. And that was the most important thing. Our son has been lucky to have many very talented and caring teachers and it’s all because we enrolled him in a public school, the only place with the resources to give him the help he must have.

Recently, a virtual charter elementary school opened in Chicago. Will this school have the resources its students require? Can the needs of its special ed students be addressed virtually? Or will it only enable scared parents to shelter children from the help they need? Help socializing, help dealing with real world situations that they will face later in life.  For the sake of their kids, I hope they will keep the school accountable, which will be even more difficult when those responsible can hide behind a screen, when a school with doors and windows doesn’t exist.

Sent from my iPad

Photo by Jared Earle

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2 Responses to Virtual Special Ed: Sent from My iPad

  1. Beverly says:

    It is a very scary to think that kids will special needs can attend a “virtual” school!!! This country has decided it was more cost effective to out source, automate and remove human element in so many industries that now they think this is a good cost saving measure as well!!! Education involves more than reading, writing and math. What about the Arts and socialization skills. Todays children rarely are outside playing with each other, they are often inside playing video games or watching television. So, when will kids learn how solve disputes with each other or just play and have fun as kids should?? I remember going to the top of my street and having a foot race with sisters and neighbors. Boy I miss those days!!

  2. Thank you, Beverly, for your eloquent response. I miss those days too. I hope my son won’t one day miss the times when there were still public schools.

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