Special Ed During the Pandemic


Maddie Arno and Katie Goyette

When thinking about all of the different types of people that have been affected by the pandemic, one group usually slips people’s minds:  special-needs children. However, although they are sometimes forgotten, Special Education students, and their teachers, have been highly affected by the restrictions. Even during “normal” times, teaching Special Ed students can be difficult. With the new COVID restrictions set in place, students and teachers have to adapt to the changes made. Some of these students adapted easily. For others, these restrictions pose quite a challenge. Each day, the students are learning something new and trying to adapt to it. 

As a result of the new restrictions, some special needs kids, whose disabilities make it hard for them to wear masks, are excused from the mask regulation. Some students sometimes chew and bite on the masks because of the discomfort they bring. Other special education students find it challenging when others wear masks.  The Special Education Department Head, Mrs. Lampe said, “They rely heavily on facial expressions and they can tell if you’re happy or sad by your smile or your frown, not by your voice necessarily.” As a result of the masks, it’s harder to recognize these details which can cause students to miss social interactions. Due to the virus, students don’t really get to see kids walk by and smile at them or hear when someone says “hello” in the hallway. 

Mr. Grote, a special education teacher, gave us a sneak peek at how his special education classroom was functioning. Since some of the kids are not able to wear masks, Grote makes sure that they regularly wash their hands, sanitize their areas, and socially distance. He does a very good job of keeping things safe for the kids. 

Unfortunately, for activities outside of the classroom, many different challenges are faced. The Work Studies program has been especially difficult.  Work studies were created to allow students the opportunity to travel to participating businesses and volunteer. The students obtain many skills needed to help them find jobs in the future. It’s a very important opportunity for all.  With the virus, many kids miss out on work studies this year since they cannot wear masks.  Without these outings, students experience great loss. Another social skills builder the students miss out on are after school clubs and special trips they would take to stores. These skills helped the students interact with others and develop the social development needed in life. Special needs children already struggle a lot with fitting in and communicating. Now, without these vital interactions, life will be even harder for these students in the future.

Lampe said that she would prefer every student to wear clear masks so facial expressions can be seen. Sometimes, all you need on a bad day is a smile to remind you that it will all be okay. Grote said he would like to see more hybrid teachings occurring, similar to the first week of school. A lot fewer people each day which would limit the amount of exposure to everyone. Overall, both teachers feel like the school has done a very good job of trying to meet the needs of all children. Despite the challenges both teachers and students have faced, everyone is trying to keep a positive attitude and make every day the best day they can.