Special Education Children
As is public aware, in Puerto Rico pandemic quarantine has left thousands of special education students unsealed of therapies, who may not receive services for the rest of the semester or until August if the coronavirus continues as a threat, as anticipated.
Closure of schools and centers that provide necessary therapies for special education children during the COVID-19 pandemic can have consequences that affect them for months in various lines of their lives, far beyond education.
What would be the consequences?
Loss of skills. Special education children are very sensitive to losing skills after prologated periods without learning stimuli. In some you don't need a multi-month break because only two to three weeks is enough for them to start losing those skills. Regression or loss of learning rhythm can be such that it takes months to return to where they were when services ceased. The longer the recess, the greater the risk.
This reality caused the federal law that shelters the rights of these children to determine that the summer months cannot be gone without some help, and the extended summer alternative was created. This allows these students to continue their therapies for at least one of the summer months.
School failure. Therapies are essential to the educational performance of these children, so stopping them puts them at risk of failure in grade, even if they are receiving education virtually.
Communication problems. The absence of therapies, such as speech and language, affects other areas of human work, such as the ability to communicate properly, to understand and retain. A decrease in comprehension skills will cause you to not understand what is explained to you, so you will have to resort to various teaching techniques, thus prolonging the time it takes to understand what is taught. Behavioral problems. Behavioral problems can also arise from difficulty communicating effectively. In addition to changing their routine and not being able to leave the home, the difficulty in expressing how he feels, because of his speech and language problems create "the perfect storm," so that he presents behavioral problems that make family life more complicated during a quarantine.
These are some of the consequences of absence, mostly focused on one type of therapies, speech and language, but special education children often receive another variety of therapies that, if not virtually received, will also cause difficulties that will affect their virtual school performance at this time and in person in the future. Remote therapies are the ideal tool at the moment to minimize these consequences. This type of service has been in the United States for more than 15 years. This therapeutic modality was used to care for children residing in remote locations. Several investigations validate their effectiveness, however, coverage of health plans varies, depending on jurisdiction.
In Puerto Rico, a law regulating cybertherapy is in the process of passing, providing therapeutic services for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, language, psychology, counseling, social work, counseling in rehabilitation and educational therapy, to be offered by an authorized professional using remote technology for the duration of quarantine.
Not all children can benefit from virtual therapies or cybertherapies, because of the nature and complexity of diagnosis, and not all therapies can be offered virtually. In the event that therapy requires the presence of the therapist who offers it, which is not feasible at this time, recommendations for the home will be necessary to mitigate, as far as possible, the consequences of their absence.
We are living a new global reality that demands flexibility, creativity and more commitment from us than ever before from those of us who work with special education children and their families. It is important that our special education children who can benefit from telepractice therapies start them without delay. These children represent our most vulnerable population in quarantine times, not because of possible contagion, but because of the loss of skills that took a lot of time and effort to develop. Let's make prevention the norm, they and their families don't need any additional loss.