Anjali’s Academic Adventure

Hey everyone! Hope everybody is doing well. I wanted to put up this post as a quick update regarding Anjali’s experience in the past few months. Mainly I’ll be focusing on some options that we’ve come to learn of for her schooling and overall developments in her educational progress. 

First, let’s explore what I mean when I mention different options for her schooling. Anjali’s current classroom at school is categorized as “moderate to severe.” My parents believe that in order for her to improve her discipline and academic focus (more on that later), some other options have to be explored. This led to us looking into multiple charter schools, and even getting admission offers from after spending time on waitlists. Both us and Anjali’s current school are also looking into what can be done regarding organically helping Anjali improve and moving up to the “mild to moderate” class. Her teacher is very focused and fosters open communication with us regarding where she needs to improve. However, the hypothetical movement up to the “mild to moderate” class can only happen if Anjali is able to maintain a level of focus and capability in front of the faculty responsible for evaluating her. 

What made us reach this point of thinking about changing Anjali’s classroom environment? The honest answer is regression. Loss of in-person ABA therapy over the last 6 months was a huge hit to Anjali’s level of focus, progress with her sensory issues, and to the academic knowledge that a weekly therapy schedule had implemented in her. We try our best to create a schedule of academic work with her, which includes a great deal of practice worksheets from Kumon. However, it’s hard to replicate a routine and class-like environment, in which Anjali understands that a certain level of focus is expected from her. 

Where do I see all of this developing or heading to? As for Anjali’s classroom environment, I’d hope for things to work out at her current school. This is especially due to both my mother and Anjali’s current teacher being quite focused upon the steps necessary for Anjali to improve in a way that warrants her being moved up a one level. As for her regression regarding academic work, I believe that it is only a matter of time till she improves in this area. The classroom environment of the upcoming in-person school year, with multiple teachers around her, will eventually gear her back towards being able to control her energy more and once again get her accustomed to the routine of work that she had previously tackled with ease. 

Those were all the updates for now. I hope that anyone in a similar boat as us can utilize this overview of our experience in order to pick up some nuggets regarding how to earnestly help the academic situation of their special needs child. 

COVID-19 & The Special Needs Community

Hey everyone! I hope everyone had an enjoyable and safe summer. As I’d discussed earlier in my Pandemic Precautions post, we’ve spent the last year and a half taking many actions to ensure that Anjali isn’t at a high risk for COVID-19 due to her behavioral tendencies naturally not following all the recommended precautions. Reading that post made me think about how the general population of special needs individuals are dealing with the pandemic, and if this community is more susceptible to COVID-19. I found some interesting results when researching this topic, so let’s dive right in! 

I want to start off by making it clear to everyone, and clarifying for any reader who may need to know this, that it is important to note that individuals with ASD are NOT “at higher risk for becoming infected with or having severe illness from novel coronavirus (COVID-19)” (CDC). In other words, the diagnosis of ASD, Aspergers, or any other behavioral conditions in itself is not something that puts your immune system at a relatively higher risk for COVID-19. Only individuals in these groups that also happen to have pre-existing health conditions that weaken the organs that the virus attacks are at relatively higher risk, and it is important for any family member of a special needs individual who may fall in this group to be conscious about this fact. 

With that out of the way, let’s look at how patterns of social interactions during the pandemic have increased the rate of individuals in the special needs community contracting COVID-19. A study from Drexel University showed that adults with Autism “receive services from outside caregivers and have had avoidable hospitalizations compared to the [parts of the] population without mental health conditions.” Indeed, this added risk is something that even we have contemplated in Anjali’s lifestyle. As is the case for many special needs children, Anjali has ABA therapists visit us on nearly a daily basis, and this necessary part of the lifestyle for individuals with Autism can also serve as a catalyst for spreading COVID-19 in this population group. It is also important to note that precautions that need to be followed for the pandemic can be quite disruptive of the preferences for individuals with Autism. “Physical distancing, restrictions on activities, new telework arrangements, and the shift to virtual learning can cause significant disruptions to daily routines, changing an individual’s physical and social settings. Each of these changes can create challenges for individuals with autism and their families” is how the NIMH perfectly describes this factor. The results of these disruptive precautions can be one of two things: added distress upon the Autistic individual in an already confusing time period or inability for this individual to follow the necessary precautions. This applies to Anjali as well, since I often wonder how well she has acclimated to the new COVID safety protocols at her in-person classes in school, and whether this has been an uncomfortable adjustment period for her, since she is a child that has sensory needs of touching the objects around her.

Link to the research paper conducted by A.J. Drexel Autism Institute: https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/XY59J4MSVATMP9IGRZIK/full

 

Well what can be done about this? The top priority should be the safety of special needs individuals in the pandemic. Therefore, precautions should still be followed at all costs, even if it means cutting out somewhat important interactions with outside caregivers during this pandemic time period or guiding the autistic individual through an awkward acclimation period with COVID-19 protocols. However, if something simply can’t be cut out of the lifestyle of a special needs individual’s lifestyle, then the second best option is to ensure that all variables regarding that factor are monitored and controlled. An example of this may be daily in-person therapy sessions being done with a mask on, regular testing of all parties involved on a monthly or weekly basis, and cancelling sessions if anyone develops symptoms. Hope this serves as some food for thought for now, and stay safe everyone!