Students with mild/moderate learning disabilities overcoming challenges of school during a pandemic

“It’s a different ballgame now."
Posted at 6:16 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 13:50:25-05

We’ve all raised our hands when we needed to ask for help or answer a question in class. Now, imagine being a student who needs extra support in their learning and not being able to ask for help outright while learning virtually during a pandemic.

“It was hard because when I had a question, I would feel embarrassed to ask, or scared,” 6th grader at Buttonwillow Union School District, Anahi Vivanco said.

Anahi Vivanco is one of Clinton Parrish’s supported learners. Parrish teaches students with mild/moderate learning disabilities at Buttonwillow Union School District.

Vivanco and fellow student, Daisy Rico said in-person learning as a supported learner has made all the difference.

“When you ask a question, they’re going to answer it,” Rico, a 5th grader at Buttonwillow Union School District said. “Sometimes when you’re online you can’t hear or understand.”

Parrish’s class was the first to return to in-person instruction at Buttonwillow in late October, but that doesn’t necessarily make things easier.

“It’s a different ballgame now that we’re wearing masks. Even now, you can hear my voice is muffled in a mask,” Parrish said. “Our campus in particular, teachers have a microphone attached to their necks which makes our voice easier to hear.”

Parrish also has had visual or audio mediums attached to lesson plans for students that may learn from a variety of methods.

Parrish said moderate/learning disabilities generally are a “mild discrepancy in ability of student and academic achievement”: Physical factors like impaired hearing or eyesight, or needing extra assistance in reading comprehension and mathematics. Accommodations can be made depending on what the student needs to learn better.

“They’re students that need a little bit more support than the general education population, but enough support that it has to be specialized,” Parrish said.

Each student has an education plan set at the beginning of the academic year, tailored to their needs.

During a pandemic challenging to any student, accommodations like extra time on assignments can help supported learners, feel supported.

“Students need to get a fair and equal opportunity for the grade they deserve. So that can change with the times,” Parrish said.

To make sure his 11 in-person and 6 online students that Zoom into class stay on track, he has extra plans in place. Parrish’s students ranging from 2nd to 8th graders will have four hours of class in-person, a break and then virtual breakout rooms for extra help when they return home. Then there’s assigned accelerations times outside of those scheduled instruction hours.

Parrish added that if a student has a question in class, he normally tries to answer it from a distance, whether through virtual chatrooms, or coming up at least six feet apart to a shielded desk.