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Many of the changes wrought by the pandemic helped the disabled. They're not ready to give them up

Billy Jean Louis, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Health & Fitness

She pointed to how the Maryland General Assembly embraced virtual meetings, which gave disabled people the ability to testify and attend public meetings from home instead of needing to find accessible transportation. The change lead to an increase in meeting attendance among individuals that the MDDC works with and their families, she said.

As schools resume in person, parents have conflicting thoughts about what may be best for their kids. For those who suffer from anxiety, virtual classes allowed them to comfortably communicate and participate in class.

Rene Averitt-Sanzone, executive director of the Parents Place of Maryland, a special education nonprofit, said several schools also increased services, such as speech therapy and sign-language classes, to better accommodate students.

Younger students who spent little time in school before the pandemic have never had the opportunity to learn crucial social-emotional lessons. For students who received specialized help with one-on-one educators or assistive technology, more time out of the classroom meant even more learning lost.

Angie Auldridge, mother of an 8-year-old with autism and cognitive impairments, was faced with the challenge of juggling care for him, working from home and looking after her two other children with her husband.

Days were spent struggling to keep their son engaged with learning for hours in front of a screen, Auldridge said.

 

Some days, Auldridge had to physically restrain her son in front of the computer; nevertheless, he was not able to stay on the same academic track, she said.

In Auldridges’s family, virtual education was an obstacle to be overcome. One thing they would like to keep from the pandemic era is telehealth.

Maryland Health Care Commission’s 2019 decision to expand telehealth services and reimburse providers for them at the same rates as in person visits made attending medical appointments more convenient.

For families like the Auldridges, they did not have to drive to Baltimore from their home in Western Maryland and their son was able to see a sought-after specialist in Kansas City.

“I was glad to hear about it because having telehealth access made my son’s appointments so much easier,” said Auldridge. “It was more convenient especially because his appointments are usually more of a conversation between the doctor and parents than a physical examination, so I hope we can continue to have that option.”

©2021 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.