What online learning looks like for student with special needs

What online learning looks like for student with special needs
It’s an easy commute from his bed to his desk but the challenges begin once Justin's laptop is turned on. (Source: WKYT)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Justin, an 18-year-old senior, wakes up every morning just feet away from his classroom. It’s an easy commute from his bed to his desk, but the challenges begin once the laptop is turned on.

Justin is on the high-functioning side of autism. His goals are to be a first responder or physicist ones he graduates. Until then he, like many, are trying to learn virtually.

WKYT joined Justin and his mom Jamie on Friday in their Lexington apartment learning about the obstacles both are facing. For Justin, he says some things are going well. He still gets to see his favorite teachers and friends virtually, but being left behind and asking a question to get back on track can be tough.

“In person I felt like if I could not understand something, I could just get a one-on-one with a teaching assistant if there is one,” said Justin. “I do feel like I could get help but with that help, I have to schedule a ZOOM meeting with a teacher.”

While WKYT’s Nick Oliver spent time with the family, the portals used for homework were overloaded with students and would not let Justin access his homework. Before leaving, his ZOOM class temporarily crashed before firing back up. Justin initially was using one of the Chromebooks supplied by Fayette County Public Schools but returned the laptop after it would not properly work while he tried logging in. His family has since helped and purchased him another laptop that has more functions.

Justin says his teachers have been great to work with through the process and says they are all doing the best they can with the challenge they have been given.

When Justin runs into the problems, his mom turns into the on-call IT help. But there is only so much she can do. She is also in college and left her online small business behind to help him. She says the past few weeks have been an unwelcome challenge to say the least.

“For me, I am trying to do my classes, my son’s classes and I was running my own small business that i have had to shut down for now so that I can attend to him almost 27/7,” said Jamie.

Fayette County Public Schools have been busy since the start of online learning working to solve technology problems. The district has even contracted outside experts to help. The district says they also still need 10,000 Chromebooks to meet student demands.

Meanwhile, Justin’s mom continues to worry about the long-term effects of her teen not interacting with others.

“Socially I think it is going to bring him back to where he was a couple years ago,” said Jamie. “He is already losing how to communicate with someone when we do go out to the store. I do believe depression will set in on students like this.”

Jamie says in all, she would like to see all students back in school with a hybrid model but wants students with special needs to be placed back in the building’s first.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.