Local non-profit helps special needs students during pandemic
BATON ROUGE - A local non-profit is offering a free or low-cost way for parents to help their children with special needs continue learning despite a lack of access to traditional resources amid the pandemic.
Many parents struggled through early fall, swapping out traditional back-to-school routines for virtual learning. For the parents of special needs students, there have been many ways to fall between the educational cracks.
Jayce Taylor is a fourth grader, who fell between those cracks this fall semester.
He also has Turrets Syndrome, which means he get some extra help at school, and his mom thought this added assistance would continue once classes went virtual.
“I thought it was going to look like virtual. I thought we were gonna log on and they would have assignments and work,” said his mom, Cierra Taylor.
Instead, it was a chaotic virtual environment, leaving Jayce with little instruction time.
“From kindergarten to fifth grade all in one room, and most of the kids at the self-contained class at that school were first grade, so he wasn’t able to get fourth grade instruction,” Taylor continued.
That's when M.A.R.K (Meaningful Autistic Resources for Kids) stepped in to offer Jayce digital resources that are specially designed to assist him while learning from home.
“We wanted to make sure that we were still able to provide the children the resources that they needed,” said Angela Roquemore with M.A.R.K.
Funding from a federal grant allows M.A.R.K. to provide students with special needs with free or low-cost live virtual tutoring during the pandemic.
“It’s customized, and also the special educators work with the parents to instruct them on evidence-based strategies to help their special needs child to learn,” Roquemore explained.
If M.A.R.K. tutoring hadn't stepped in, Jayce's mom said her son would not have had a teacher.
“I was literally on seesaw trying to find worksheets, trying to find material everyday and its difficult as a parent to try and teach him at the same time. It was really, really challenging,” said Taylor.
With supplemental resources like art and music therapy, the program reinforces lessons from each student's school.
Clarissa, Jayce's virtual tutor, guides him through classes that have now allowed him to catch up with his peers.
This kind of success is something M.A.R.K. hopes to see happen for dozens of other students in the area who are in a similar situation.
The program still has enough funding to operate and assist a number of students.
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