Pandemic hitting families with kids with special needs especially hard

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The pandemic and remote learning has been hard on many families, but it's especially difficult for children with special needs and many parents say services to help the kids should be considered essential.

Danielle Griffith says her 12-year-old daughter Chloe, born with a rare chromosomal abnormality, had 35 hours a week of services, including different therapies and in-person learning, at a specialized school in Philadelphia before the pandemic.

"She had a full life and loved all of it," said Danielle.

But since March, Chloe has been doing everything online.

"One of us has to be with her at all times paying attention, doing OT, PT, speech therapy, the crafts, the science, we're doing it all," said Danielle.

With two full-time working parents it's overwhelming and it's also damaging. Chloe, like other kids with special needs, is starting to regress.

"They're angry, they're frustrated," said Danielle.

And besides her dog Carlos, her parents and her brother, Chloe's social life is school, so she's missing that as well.

The Griffiths and other parents say the benefits of in-person education for their kids at this point outweigh the risks of the pandemic.

Philadelphia School district doesn't plan on bringing back students with special needs until January. Chloe's father Scott says it's unacceptable, and help for these children should be considered essential services.

"This is a situation where wearing a mask, gloves, some sort of gown is able to be done and I think that's the most frustrating part," he said.

The Griffiths recognize they have access to equipment and internet, where some families don't. They're hoping a balance can be met to help more kids with special needs get back on track sooner.

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia school district says some students with special needs will go back at the end of November, but that only includes pre- K through second grade.
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