Closures due to COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on students with special needs

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on most families, it's been especially tough for students with special needs, as well as their parents.

"With a person like Geoffrey is at home 24/7 on a regular basis, it’s very hard to keep them stimulated and active," said Roseanne Carlson.

Many parents like Carlson, who have children with special needs, rely on the small army of teachers, therapists and nurses to get through the week. These students typically require more support that can't be given virtually. Due to the pandemic, Carlson's son, Geoffrey, who has Cerebral Palsy, hasn't been able to do hydrotherapy in eight months.

"Hydrotherapy is one place where he feels free and he can move his arms and legs and we can do range of motion exercises with him," said Carlson.

As schools went virtual, many parents came to Cortney’s Place for help. The non-profit organization has day programs for those with disabilities, and while the organization had to close for 14 weeks due to the pandemic, staff members are doing their best to keep things as normal as possible, and make up for lost time.

"Volunteers can’t come in, no therapists coming in. Luckily, we have a great facility to still offer so much, but it has set us back," said Cortney's Place Executive Director Chasidy Gray. "Consistency is a big component for our students. What keeps them going in life. The structure. The regularity. The go-go-go."

Gray is hopeful the state will do more to help this population during this time. She says there could be permanent effects on the well being of these students.

"Not only is it a regression, but it affects their health overall," said Gray. "The lack of movement, the lack of stimulation. The lack of socialization with their friends and their staff."