Parents turn to local programs for online class support

Posted at 7:16 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 19:16:59-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. —Shifting from face-to-face learning to virtual classes can be overwhelming for some students. And it’s a challenge for some parents, especially if their children have special needs like Amber Zollinger’s.

“Even just homework through the normal school year is a lot for us,” she said.

Her two children in the backseat. Her son Greyson has autism and her daughter Savannah has ADHD. Her kids are still on spring break, and she’s starting to feel the pressure of online teaching.

“Doing it all from home, you know with behavior problems, and learning problems, it’s already feeling overwhelming, and I’m not even in it yet,” she said.

Teachers said the adjustments will be difficult even for superstars like Ms. Tamara Hunter who optimizes engagement in her classroom.

But Lee County, Charlotte County and Collier County school districts said they’re prepared to provide additional support. Teachers will include modifications for students who use an individualized education program IEP. They also said students can connect with counselors online and through video chat.

Zollinger relies on a Cape Coral organization called Family Initiative to teach her how to walk her kids through this uncertain time.

Family Initiative Vice President Anjali Van Drie said kids need a routine.

“For kids with special needs, for kids on the spectrum, it creates a level of anxiety,” she said.

She said parents creating a schedule for them can ease some of that anxiety. But they need to stick to it.

“Even though we’re at home, what time do we get up? What time do you have breakfast? What time are we going to do an activity at the table?” she said.

The program supports children with autism. They usually meet in person, but starting Saturday they’ll guide parents through activities online and provide free support for virtual classes. They also offer support for children with behavioral problems.