The Atlantic

The Pandemic Is a Crisis for Students With Special Needs

Some students rely on schools for the personal, hands-on attention of specialists. What do they do now?
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Editor’s Note: In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. In recent years, that number is closer to just three years leading a classroom. The “On Teaching” series focuses on the wisdom of veteran teachers.


Lauren Kahn is used to spending her whole day on the floor. She works at the Queens Center for Progress, teaching nonverbal 3- and 4-year-olds with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder, several of whom have visual impairments as well. The class is hands-on, to say the least—they sing, they play, they practice communicating with body language. Well, they used to.

Instructing her students is an impossible task from afar, so Kahn is trying to teach their parents to teach. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, she FaceTimes the parents so that they can put on their children, and on Tuesdays she sends out an email newsletter with exercises for the whole week. The theme of the month is plants; one week, she asked the parents to help their children sort vegetables by color, to see if they can point to the

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