Special needs community: A grueling spring, a busy summer and questions about the fall amid pandemic

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — “In a day, Domenic would have ESY from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.,” says Christine Faressa, noting that, after summer learning, the 9-year-old with autism works one-on-one with a behavioral therapist several times a week then heads to social skills camp, a bright spot after a confusing few months. “These children all know each other, so, they’re very happy to see each other.”

All the while, Faressa is working full-time from a basement office, leaning on husband, Mark, a substitute teacher with summers off , to take the lead with Domenic’s schedule.

Faressa is the founder of Sun, Moon & Stars, Inc, a support group for parents of kids with special needs.

“Everyone is having a hard time right now but our community has been especially rocked by this,” she says of the pandemic. “Some of the families we know, they’ve had to completely rearrange their work schedule – who goes on second shift, who goes on third shift, taking a leave, a furlough. It has been very difficult.”

This tough summer after an incredibly difficult spring.

“I don’t want to say it was a waste but it was a waste,” says Faressa, stressing that teachers and administrators in her Watertown district were great, doing as much as possible for families.

But, the realities of distance learning are simply a huge challenge for some kids with disabilities.

“They need one to one, hands-on, someone there helping them whether it’s to redirect them, bring them back, whatever it may be,” explains Faressa. “To have it over the computer is very difficult.”

Domenic was distracted, anxious and even belligerent at times. His behavior regressed while his academics and social connections suffered.

Faressa hopes school resumes as normal in the fall but anticipates more uncertainty for a boy who thrives on routine.

“Everyone keeps saying – the first break of COVID – we’re going to go back to remote learning,” she says. “So how do you put them in and take them out?”

Hear more concerns from the special needs community during News 8’s virtual town hall, Thursday at 7 p.m. here on News 8 and also on My TV 9.

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