May 09, 2020

Distance Learning, It's a Challenge

By Mary D.

One of my youth, Lena*, is developmentally delayed, on an IEP, and in a full-time intensive skills classroom. She is a Freshman in high school and has always had supportive teachers and for educators around her at school. The shift to online learning has been challenging, not only for Lena but also for her mom. Her mom is primarily Spanish speaking, does not have a computer or email address and is not accustomed to navigating the internet, but supports where she can.

We have been able to work through the obstacles with the support of her awesome team; her family, her school, contract tutors and her former tutor. As online learning was rolled out, I would call Lena thirty minutes before her classes on FaceTime, have her open her Google Classroom account, walk through the steps of getting logged on and into her Google Meet class, and help her figure out how to unmute her mic. There were frequent back and forth emails to help problem solve when she could not find the links she needed for each class. I have supported communication with her teachers to ensure she is logging in and doing assignments. I would text her and her mom each night in Spanish to let them know what her class schedule is for the following day. Just the other night,,, Lena’s teacher created an incredible visual schedule with all the links, dates and times that she needs in one document. It is amazing! However, Lena could not find it. We did some problem solving over FaceTime, and with the assistance of her brother, saved it to her desktop so she can check it every morning and every night.

We have spent a LOT of time problem solving online learning, but we have fun, too. She will call me to play hide and seek with my own kids. They hide while we talk, and then I carry the phone around while she tries to find them. We do art classes where she will teach me how to draw, and she shows me the progress she is making on a puzzle that her former tutor sent. She worked with a fabulous tutor for five years, Miss Sue, who she was matched with through Friends of the Children in 1st grade. She moved away, but we all remained pen pals and stayed in touch. Miss Sue reached out to see how she could help, Lena asked for a puzzle, and she put it in the mail that day.

There are days where I will call Lena, and I know she is feeling down; this has been hard. But we have always been able to end our calls laughing. We are making the best of a difficult situation, and so far, there have been many positive experiences that we have shared together.