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Back-to-school issues for students with special needs

Remote learning is tough, but there are tech options to help out

back to school, kids with special needs, tech solutions

As schools grapple with in-person versus remote learning decisions, the parents of kids with special needs are faced with challenges on both sides of the choice. The Tampa Bay News outlines the issues, and describes new tech solutions that can help with at-home study. 

Attention span issues make online learning a challenge for some children. Others have regressed socially and academically from a spring of pandemic isolation. But returning to school has its own challenges. Will kids have the impulse control to wear masks and to avoid touching other children? Students with special needs sometimes whisper in a teacher's ear if they're too shy to speak up in class, and that option will be gone.

Therapists at school also have new limitations on their treatment regimes. Physical and occupational therapists won't be able use the physical manipulations that are so helpful. If your child is staying home, take the initiative to contact therapists who have been helpful in the past and ask if telehealth sessions are available. While they're not as efficient as in-person therapy, they're better than no therapy at all.

Some parents, concerned about putting their kids back in school with such limitations and risks, may prefer to keep them at home. Others have no choice, since many schools are opening with exclusively online learning, at least for the first month or so. Here are some of the innovative products that can help families survive remote learning.

Benetech is a nonprofit that offers an e-book library called Bookshare. It features over 900,000 books in audio, braille, large font and more, enabling kids with dyslexia, blindness and cerebral palsy to read or listen on their devices.

On Varsity Tutors, you can find an online reading group of students with dyslexia who are reading at the same level as your child, based on a self-assessment questionnaire. Isolation is decreased when kids working together with others having similar challenges. They have three fee-based class series for children having language difficulties. Each  is offered at different times of the day

Goally is a wearable device that gives activity prompts, which parents program in advance. By following the prompts, children become less dependent on their parents to manage their schedules, giving parents a break as well. The device gives points for completing tasks, which accumulate and result in rewards like a trip to a fast-food restaurant or an episode of a favorite TV show.

After a day in front of the computer, kids subject to sensory overload will welcome products from Huggaroo. Their weighted blankets and compression sheets calm children by providing a sense of containment and safety. 

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