On Friday, August 7, parents and caregivers met remotely with school administrators to ask questions and voice concerns about the start of a new school year as it relates to the needs of their children who access special education services in Manchester schools.
When schools moved to remote learning in March, children impacted by disability faced difficult challenges due to the sudden change in schedule and loss of familiar routines and therapies. This triggered regression in behavior and loss of language and motor skills, so for those families to be able to use their experiences to ask direct questions and have them answered by school officials was a great benefit.
In my own family, my son who has autism struggled to keep up with and prioritize his middle school assignments. We had many days where he was too overwhelmed to finish much of his work, which in turn caused added anxiety. My son has accommodations for his schoolwork on a 504 plan due to his diagnosis of autism, so we were able to work with each of his teachers to modify assignments, which made a world of difference for my son. For a lot of families, however, solutions were harder to come by and many felt that their needs were not met.
Some of the questions that were asked specifically addressed how the district will be able to provide the therapies they were unable to carry out in the spring. These therapies include speech and language services, physical therapy, social skills groups and occupational therapy.
Each individual case was not able to be addressed by the district in the listening session, but the parents were given assurance that the needs of each child will be met either in person or remotely and that the district is working on solutions to make this happen.
The response from district officials was heartfelt and much appreciated. The listening session ended on the note that more conversations like this will be held going forward. This is a key to creating equity for students with disabilities in our schools.
In order to work on solutions that will be forward-thinking and offer more inclusive options for students with disabilities, I believe we will need to tap into the greater community in Manchester for a variety of creative ideas and untapped resources.
Parents, therapists and teachers all have first-hand knowledge of what works well for their students and children, and the more we can all come together to talk about the wins and struggles the better we are to meet these challenges.
Manchester Ward 4 Parent and
Candidate for NH State Representative
Hillsborough County District 43
Manchester Wards 4,5,6,7