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Parents of students with disabilities see risk of educational gaps amid COVID surge

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Kurt and Emma attend special education programming as preschoolers at CP Rochester. - PHOTOS PROVIDED BY KRISTINA KNAUF AND ALLISON GREEN
  • PHOTOS PROVIDED BY KRISTINA KNAUF AND ALLISON GREEN
  • Kurt and Emma attend special education programming as preschoolers at CP Rochester.
When most of Monroe County was designated a yellow zone on Monday over rising coronavirus cases, preschool classes for students with disabilities at CP Rochester switched to remote learning on a moment’s notice.

Allison Green’s 4-year-old daughter, Emma, was caught off guard this week when her school bus didn’t arrive.

“It led to tons of emotions this morning, lots of crying and just complete and utter meltdown over the fact of 'where's her bus?’ ” Green said Wednesday.

Emma has autism and relies on routines. She also depends on in-person learning and therapy, like her preschool classmate Kurt.

Christina Knauf, Kurt’s mother, said her son benefits much more from being in school.

“We’re just not able to keep up with the therapies. We’re just not,” Knauf said. “They’re not as effective in a remote environment and what we’re seeing as a result is not as much growth in language.”



People throwing parties and the desire for normalcy that have contributed to rising COVID-19 cases are affecting children’s access to learning, Knauf said; remote learning just doesn’t cut it when it comes to special education.

“This isn’t the difference between sitting down at a restaurant and getting take-out. This is the difference between my child being able to reach his full potential or not,” said Knauf.

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This story is part of Move to Include, an initiative that uses the power of public media to inform and transform attitudes and behaviors about inclusion. Move to Include was founded by WXXI and the Golisano Foundation and expanded with a grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.


Noelle E.C. Evans is a reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.
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