Students and their families have now been feeling the effects of the pandemic for a full year. Studies show that students across the board are struggling and test scores overall are significantly lower than they have been in previous years. Students with learning disabilities are feeling the effects of COVID-19 the hardest due to lack of support and communication difficulties. With summer approaching and summer slide threatening to compound academic losses, it’s more important than ever for students to connect with sources of consistent academic support.
How Students with Learning Disabilities Have Been Affected by Covid
Consistency and structure are vital for students with learning disabilities to succeed academically. They’re built into the traditional brick-and-mortar educational environment, but at home, it’s difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain. Many students involved in special education programs received personalized attention or even one-on-one aids. At home, parents of kids with special needs are overwhelmed by the demands of work, the academic needs of multiple children, and household responsibilities on top of administering educational therapy for which they have no education or training.
An article in the Los Angeles Times noted that children with learning disabilities are regressing and losing curiosity, interest, and motivation due to the lack of adequate support provided by schools. Certain hands-on therapies simply aren’t as effective when mediated by a computer. Families have also seen high turnover in educators and therapists so that all parties are playing catch-up more often than not.
Janette Duran, a counselor at Marlton School in the Los Angeles Unified district, works with deaf students and is deaf herself. She explained that many students with disabilities that make it harder to communicate with others are feeling especially isolated during this time. Students with a wide variety of learning disabilities are struggling to communicate their needs and challenges, which leads to frustration and resistance to engage in learning activities.
In addition, there is a serious backlog of assessments for special education services in many California school districts due to challenges with administering assessments remotely. Time is of the essence when it comes to interventions and therapies, but many students are stuck waiting in line. Educators have expressed concern about the impact these delays will have on students when they finally return to the classroom.
Effects of Covid on Academic Achievement
A study by the Economic Policy Institute determined that online education is “effective only if students have consistent access to the internet and computers and if teachers have received targeted training and supports for online instruction.” Due to the suddenness of school closures and the need for teacher training to also take place remotely, this hasn’t been the case for the majority of students and educators. Time was lost while teachers and students adjusted to new tools and modalities, the curriculum was adjusted to fit an online format, and technology identified and rectified gaps in accessibility. That time hasn’t been made up for yet.
Bethany Gross, associate director at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, likened the pandemic to a natural disaster: “Recovery from Katrina wasn’t a one-year recovery. We didn’t just bring the kids back and everything fell into place. And this will be the same. A nation of children coping with trauma, illness and disruption will need more than a vaccine to address the fallout. I don’t think we can just start school next fall and say ‘Everything’s going to be okay.’”
The impact of COVID-19 on student performance is evident when comparing test scores of students between late 2019 versus the same time in 2020. In a study of 4.4 million students, “the average student in grades 3-8 who took a math assessment this fall scored 5 to 10 percentile points behind students who took the same test last year” according to an NBC News article. Average reading and writing scores have fallen as well.
The Importance of Personalized Academic Support
According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Research on summer learning (loss or gain) points to the importance of personalized instruction.” This includes honoring a student’s learning style and addressing any learning disabilities. When schools are struggling to provide basic support, private academic tutoring and/or educational therapy can help.
La Jolla LearningWorks can help your child get back on track for a successful school year with personalized learning programs. Our summer programs provide students with live one-on-one education that is customized to their needs and goals. We offer support in multiple academic areas like math and reading as well as executive function skill building and educational therapy/IEP support. Connect with us to learn more!