Students With Special Needs Struggle to Study from Home through COVID-19

Azzaya Khan / May 8th, 2020

Cierra Ritchat is an eight year old with Hyperactive Downsydrome, doing her best to study from home.

(Azzaya Khan / BCIT News)

Not all students are the same, and some students need more than online chats to continue learning from home in this pandemic.

Following the March spring break, BC high school and elementary students have been continuing their schooling from home. Teachers are still available to provide online support.

Cierra Ritchat is eight years old and has Hyperactive Down syndrome. Hyperactive down syndrome is a form of down syndrome, that causes her to be easily distracted, while also having difficulty with comprehension. To help, Cierra is using other forms of learning comprehension and communication, like sign language and touch screen tablets that can pronounce words for her.

For her mother Sherri Ritchat, it’s been hard for Cierra to learn from home.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, because Cierra doesn’t have that routine anymore. And so for me trying to get her focused is one of my biggest struggles.” – Sherri Ritchat, Mother.

Ritchat said, when Cierra was in school she always had someone to watch over her and help her through every assignment. Ritchat is trying her best to fill in the role of Cierra’s I.E.P teacher (Individualized. Education. Program)

Luckily  she has received some resources from her IEP teacher, like books and online learning tools for Cierra to use, to try and help her keep up with the curriculum from home.

There are many students with special needs in BC. The BC Teachers Federation has reported a slight increase of the number of students with special needs in BC from 2013 to 2018. With the increase from 2016 to 2018, the total of students with special needs is now over 69,000, click here to see the report from the Province of BC and the BCTF.

In Australia, school are open only to students with special needs and learning support teachers.

(Tasleem Sahib)

Special needs students in other countries are having a very different experience.In Australia schools are open to students with special needs or don’t have the proper resources to work online from home.

Tasleem Sahib is a teacher in Australia, that works with students who require extra support. And when she was asked by her school’s vice principal to work, she said she wanted to help these students continue to receive the support they need.

“It’s important that students with specific learning needs receive that one on one support, because we build a repour with that student and understand them. And some parents may not understand the learning needs of that child.”

Tasleem Sahib Teacher

Sahib works in a school with over 500 students. According to Sahib there are only 22 students in school, all of whom she teaches.

The BC government is working on a plan similar to the Australian system. The province has  provided 23,000 laptops and computers, and now looking to get special needs students the support they need.

In an email statement they say they are working with school districts across BC to have Educational Assistants facilitate lessons and provide support for students with special needs in small classroom sizes.

The Province of BC is working on a plan to provide support for students with special needs

The BC Ministry of Education is still in the makings of their plan, the next step for the ministry and school districts is to find special education teachers who are willing to work.

Ritchat is hoping the Ministry of Education implements this plan soon, so Cierra and other students with special needs can go back to having that support they are used to having when they’re in school.