Mother of Special Needs Child Describes Her Experience with Homeschooling During COVID-19

Unless home schooling was a regular routine for parents, having children and teens home full-time outside of school has most likely been a major adjustment for thousands of parents across New York state.

That is especially true for parents of children with special needs or disabilities.

Rachel Leyden is the mother of Ryan Leyden, who was diagnosed as a baby with PDD-NOS, another form of autism.

She has relied on the help of Ryan’s school aides, teachers and therapists to work with all the setbacks that come with being diagnosed autistic.

“It took years of failed public school experiences and evaluations before Ryan was properly placed in a school campus that was a perfect fit for him. I am so proud of how far he has come because of his school and teachers,” Rachel shares.

The Center for Discovery, a private school for children and adults with special needs, is Ryan’s educational institution. The Center, as it’s nicknamed, is a New York State Department of Health approved facility that also offers residential and medical support to the special needs community.

“It’s been a true game changing place for Ryan and our whole family really. The programs, facilities and educational support he gets there does not compare to any other place,” Rachel explains.

“It is absolutely not something I can come close to replicating but I am trying my best. A lot of these kids don’t understand what is going on. My son Ryan doesn’t understand that there is a world pandemic going on,” Rachel says.

It was extremely disappointing for Rachel to come to terms with the fact that Ryan would not be able to attend school on his regular Monday through Friday schedule once governor Andrew Cuomo canceled school for the remainder of the 2020 school year.

Each year, The Center serves over one thousand children and adults from across New York State and beyond with a staff that is specially trained.

With coronavirus sweeping New York in mass numbers, it has forced students of the special needs community to continue their education without the in-person help of The Center.  

“I follow the teacher’s structure. Ryan’s teacher sends me a weekly schedule to keep him on track. We Zoom twice a week, do worksheets and hands-on activities like baking or counting money,” Rachel explains.

She goes on to share some of the challenges.

“When he is having a challenging moment in school they can defer to the next specialist. I have to figure this out on my own. He has sensory outbursts and those can be difficult to combat especially since he is bigger and stronger than me,” Rachel says.  

If there is one word of advice that Rachel shares with others, it is patience.

“This is a waiting game for everyone, whether you’re a regular kid or a special needs kid. The overall goal though is to keep all these students on track, so they don’t fall behind and most importantly patience. Take one day at a time.”

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