LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Many parents and teachers are struggling to adjust to non-traditional instruction during the coronavirus, and it’s extremely difficult for families who have children with special needs.
While virtual lessons and Zoom meetings are working for many families, trying to hear or see through a computer if you are partially blind and deaf is next to impossible. That’s what gave Helen Keller Center Specialist Corinne Miller an idea: social distancing house calls to students.
She did just that, communicating through a glass door to Alex Hitzelberger, 16.
Miller asked Hitzelberger through the glass, “Which way does your arm go?”
As he motioned the correct answer, Miller responded, “Good!”
“We’re working on science, transverse and longitudinal waves,” she explained to WAVE 3 News.
Born at 25 weeks with cerebral palsy, Hitzelberger, a student at the Kentucky School for the Blind, has sight and hearing limitations.
When the coronavirus changed life as his family knew it, his mother Brandi said her son struggled with the computer.
“I was terrified, and I was really stressed out,” she said, fearing her son would fall through the cracks.
To help fix that issue using an FM system, Miller has a microphone outside of the glass door, and Hitzelberger wears headphones inside.
“So he’s able to adjust the volume to make me loud enough for him,” Miller said.
Sitting close to the door, the teen can work on sign language and see visual aids as Miller uses the glass door as a work space.
“If you try to hold a piece of paper up to a computer screen, it’s tough,” Miller said.
Even on a chilly day with neighbors driving by and Hitzelberger’s dog barking, Miller described it as wonderful, because it’s working.
“He has an awesome attitude and a smile that just makes anyone smile,” she said, “so if I can come over here and work with Alex for an hour a day, it brightens my day.”
That has a grateful mother overwhelmed.
“I can’t even describe it, because it just takes a little bit of weight off me. Just these people that are in our lives, they’re unbelievable," Brandi Hitzelberger said.
The instructor and student finished up their lesson with a high five.
The Helen Keller Center and UK’s deaf blind project continue to work with teens to eventually help those transitioning to adulthood get a job.
Right now, it’s one lesson through the glass at a time.