COVID-19 Greatly Impacts the Special Needs Community


SARS-CoV-2(COVID) has impacted everyone’s lives in different ways. This pandemic has forced people to completely adjust their lifestyles. The special needs community being one of the most affected groups. Those with diagnosed disabilities are already fighting their own battles every day, and now they must overcome the struggles COVID brings their way.
Special needs students tend to rely on a constant schedule more than those without disabilities. They thrive when they are in a stable environment with familiar tasks and goals. English teacher, Mrs. Snyder, shares how the pandemic has impacted her five year old son, Evan, who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), “Evan has adjusted, but it took a really long time. His diagnosis lends itself to his inability to adapt to change, so the sudden shutdown was incredibly hard for him.” For Evan, the abrupt change in his routine greatly affected his education. Compared to some of his classmates, Evan needed more time to understand and work well with this new normal, and as a result, he was learning at a disadvantage.
Not only is the structure of their lives disrupted, but the new schedule that special needs students must adapt to is not hospitable for their thinking and working styles. Mrs. Snyder shares, “his thinking is very compartmentalized. He has a hard time paying attention in “class,” as he hasn’t made the connection that his new teachers are real people!” Students such as Evan, are used to being in class with their teacher and other adults who are ready to help them every step of the way. With virtual learning, it is impossible for the students to receive the help that they need. Hadley Black also explains the challenges that the pandemic has brought into her autistic siblings’ lives; “both of my brothers require hand over hand instruction, which cannot be duplicated virtually. It was as if they had no education during lock down.” Due to this pandemic, Hadley’s brothers technically lost their education. Dealing with their disabilities prevents them from being able to learn virtually. It is a problem with no solution. These boys try their best to succeed with this new lifestyle, but they are unable to prosper under these conditions. While this change from in-person to virtual is difficult for all students, those with disabilities are unable to grasp the concept of virtual learning. Therefore, students that struggle with disabilities, do not understand that they are being taught the same lessons that they would be in person. It is not a familiar concept, and as a result, these students do not see the importance of sitting behind a computer screen all day.
The sudden switch from seeing people every day to being stuck at home with no explanation is another reason the special needs community was more heavily impacted by the virus than others. Hadley says that “the isolation from their therapies and school was so difficult.” Isolation is a time that therapy is most needed, and not having that outlet takes a big toll on Hadley’s brothers. Being deprived from social interactions resulted in “tantrum increases, aggressive behavior, and regressions in skills they had gained.” These reactions are seen more in disabled children because change is harder to cope with for them. COVID-19 has negatively impacted the special needs community, and has stripped these students of valuable learning tools.