After two weeks of managing distance learning on our own, my wife and I enlisted the help of someone who couldn’t refuse a plea for help — my father — better known as Grandpa. Traditionally associated with trips to the ice cream shop and putting together puzzles he was now to sit nearby a laptop computer and assist in the facilitation of remote education. His role was to replicate, to the extent possible, the comprehensive supports that Jeremy receives under his Individualized Education Program (IEP): 10 students to 4 adult ratio special education classroom; attending eighth-grade general education English Language Arts with support of an instructional assistant; and participating in general Physical Education class. A tall order indeed.
Navigating Zoom meeting links, accessing Google Classrooms, switching virtual classes, moving between Zoom small groups, emailing and chat messaging teachers and paraprofessionals simultaneously proved to be stressful, sometimes ending in unscheduled walks around the block or other non school-related activities to allow my father and son to clear their heads before jumping back into the maze of distance learning. We are grateful for my father being willing to provide support so we could continue to work at our jobs from home.
On Sept. 8, 2020, it was announced that families of students eligible for Arizona Long Term Care Services would be able to receive home and community based services during school hours to participate in remote learning. This development is a lifeline for thousands of families of children with disabilities. The process of making this support available to families was a task almost as herculean as trying to balance work, school and parenting through the pandemic.
Multiple Arizona agencies, specifically the Division of Developmental Disabilities, who oversees the provision of Long Term Services and Supports; Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, our State’s Medicaid authority, who ensures compliance with federal Medicaid rules and regulations; and the Arizona Department of Education Exceptional Student Services, who oversees public and charter schools and ensures compliance with federal and state Special Education rules and regulations all worked together to make this possible for Arizona Families.
Though the policy change described above may not provide the key to a manageable life during a pandemic, it does provide help to many families who desperately need it. At Raising Special Kids we believe that professionals are important allies for families in creating positive outcomes for children. We thank DDD, AHCCCS, ADE/ESS, and other state agencies and offices who heard the family voice and responded by strengthening the systems of care to improve the lives of children who have disabilities and their families.
Grandpa says, “Thanks,” too.