TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - Many parents are dealing with a new reality this school year: distance learning. Especially those who have children with special needs.
According to the Tupelo Public School District, about 14 percent of the district’s students are in a special needs program.
Many of whom will be learning from home this year, requiring their parents to step in as their primary educator.
One of those parents is Lora Gipson. Her three children Noah, Elijah and Michaela will be 100 percent virtual this year.
“I really think this will be the best option for them,” said Gipson.
Noah and Elijah both have a form of non-verbal autism, while Elijah also suffers from upper respiratory problems.
"With COVID being an unknown, I don’t know how that would affect him," Gipson said.
Gipson says distance learning with two special needs children will come with its own set of challenges.
"It’s a little overwhelming, but the school seems to have a good plan in place,” said Gipson.
Part of the plan involves bringing as much of the classroom to the kitchen table as possible.
”I’ve blocked off our dining room, which is not an area that I have really let them in a lot," explained Gipson.
"They recognize the Chromebook as being from school and everyone has kind of looked over them and picked at it because they have looked at them before."
Teachers are also making sure they go the extra mile to ensure students feel supported, even from home.
“I spoke with Elijah’s teacher over at Milam [Junior High School] and she said she should get a camera that’s on her so that he can be able to see the class while she’s teaching,” said Gipson.
Director of Special Education for the Tupelo Public School District Genevieve McAlpin says teaching special needs kids from home isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
“We have a very large curriculum depending on what the child’s different deficit areas are,” said McAlpin.
But she says teachers will do their best to make the transition from the classroom to the coffee table as easy as possible.
“We’re going to incorporate them into groups as much as we can, as much as they can see their friends and participate that way,” said McAlpin.
McAlpin says one exercise you can do is use tangible things like pencils and other items around the house for things like counting and keeping track of progress.