My Pandemic Learning Experience as a Student Who Types to Communicate

by William Del Rosario

My access to education has changed greatly during the pandemic. Think about it, I went from a school with full support to sitting at a computer and viewing my teacher through the screen. Not having full supports has been difficult. There are many things competing with my attention. I am getting used to a new environment, but the reality is I still need to have a communication partner. Maybe even more so now. My mom helps some of the time, but not all. The school team has trouble understanding that I cannot type independently all of the time. I definitely need help getting through Zoom, turning pages, and making the actions and movements they want me to do. 

I think learning more about how my body needs good support and how to teach me using the strategies to meet my motor helps, not the simplifying of academics. For example, in math we moved on from trying to teach me to line up decimals to using a talking calculator for algebra.  My mom came up with the technology ideas. We also need to think about regulation and how my body has been giving me trouble with making adjustments to a computer instead of a person. For example, I needed to learn how to raise my hand or write my answer on a white board using multiple choices.

At first, we had group instruction for one hour a day with the whole class on Zoom.  The aides were not there.  Eventually they returned, but it was not the same and they do not have a way to help regulate me. Shouting out good job is nice but I need more help than that. Sometimes the aide is on Zoom silently watching.  Mom was my communication partner and the school team was able to see how much I am can to do with a trained partner. Communication gives me the same chance as everyone else. 

Being alone on Zoom without my communication support has been difficult. Looking at the teacher and not being in person has changed how I am geared to learn.  We decided to do virtual learning when my school reopened. At my school the students who are in person learning are taught together and I am taught alone for most of the day.  This means I am not able to see the other students in class. The teacher and my aide are with me alone for my subjects in Zoom, but most of the session is spent trying to get me to initiate. Sometimes I can get a few words, but it is slow. The hard thing is being taught separately.  It is lonely

I received books from my school to help me learn from home. Mom had to advocate for me to have them create paper copies of the book because it is too heavy to work with. I have speech and occupational therapy online.  I am waiting for my AAC support to come in. The challenge will be having the training done on Zoom.  I need someone with me to practice and my aide can’t do that through a screen. 

It is hard to believe the pandemic has gone on for so long and we are still thinking about how to support my AAC.  Time knows my pace has been racing like a snail. This has been so hard but getting the team to grow will be the victory.

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