Katy Families with Special Needs Students Learn to Adapt to Virtual Learning


September 3, 2020

By Natalie Cook Clark

For some Katy students, virtual school provides an ideal learning environment. Parents with younger children, however, face more obstacles with online learning. These challenges are even more pronounced for Katy families assisting a special needs student.

Lester Rangel works on virtual learning at home. Photo courtesy: Annie Rangel.

Imagine guiding your child through seven or more Zoom sessions a day, plus supervising independently assigned work. Now imagine helping a child with a special need through this kind of schedule, when they require professional services at school. This has become the reality for many Katy families with special needs children that include attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism, and other conditions.

Katy mom Annie Rangel’s son Lester is a kindergartener at Exley Elementary and has a special need.

“My son needs one-on-one time with his teacher and paraprofessional in order to comprehend the materials,” says Annie Rangel. “My background isn’t in special education, so it has been very challenging to keep up with his lessons in a way that he can better understand.”

Most Work, Assistance Falls on Parents

While Katy ISD is doing their best to meet previously assigned services, the assistance at home during this time of learning primarily falls on the parents.

“Unfortunately for my son, he is not developing his full potential via virtual learning, although he sits through his group time and he’s motivated,” says Rangel. “I don’t believe he is progressing the way he should.”

Gretchen Smith’s son is a fourth grader at Alexander Elementary. She also has a daughter in the first grade. She believes that staying organized is the key to making virtual learning work.

“I do believe he is able to learn, but I don't know how well he would learn if I wasn't here to sit with him. He needs a lot of redirection,” says Gretchen Smith. “I can’t imagine this working if I was working.”

Organization, Motivation is Key

Smith said she writes out the kids’ combined schedules on a white board so she can track what they should be doing throughout the day.

“I also made spreadsheets of their schedules, with Zoom times highlighted, and ha