After more than a year of virtual learning, the students at Wayfinder’s Special Education School are back in the classroom—and very happy to be there. Nancy Berger, school principal, reports that students are blossoming. Our Special Education School enrolls children and youth, ages 5 to 22, who are visually impaired or have moderate-to-severe disabilities.
Keriel, age 7, is one of the students making progress after only three weeks of in-person instruction. Keriel is blind and has autism. She does not speak, so she cries or sits on the floor when she is unhappy. Her mom, LaTranae, enrolled Keriel in our Special Education School because of Wayfinder’s expertise in helping children with vision loss gain independence.
Keriel joined our school in September 2020 during pandemic restrictions and attended virtually for a year with LaTranae’s devoted assistance. Virtual learning was very difficult for Keriel. “Keriel needs to have structure, a daily routine,” says LaTranae, “and the pandemic stopped her daily routine. It’s challenging for her to adjust to a new way of doing things.”
In addition to virtual learning, Keriel was receiving services online from four different specialists during the pandemic. LaTranae had to provide all the specialty services while being Keriel’s teacher and mother. “It was very difficult for me to play those multiple roles,” LaTranae admits. But there was a silver lining. “I think Keriel liked us spending a lot of time together working on her skills,” LaTranae says.
“Without moms and caregivers,” Principal Berger notes, “nothing would have happened in virtual learning. I give all credit to the
In addition to providing every aspect of Keriel’s care, LaTranae was there for her husband and Keriel’s younger brother during the pandemic. Despite all these tasks, LaTranae earned her cosmetology license. “I didn’t let the pandemic stop me,” LaTranae says.
For the first two days of in-person school, Keriel had difficulty adjusting. She cried and sat down on the floor. Then she began adapting to her new routine. The school staff learned that Keriel loves music, so now when she stages a sit-down strike, an assistant teacher will play one of Keriel’s current favorite tunes: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams or “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.
“I want her to have the confidence to be more independent,” LaTranae says about Keriel’s school goals, “and to have some form of communication with me.” The school staff are learning what Keriel likes and are building her educational routines around those. Each activity includes functional skills, like using silverware or turning a toy on, so she can gain independence.
LaTranae is very happy about Keriel’s progress in feeding herself. “Keriel didn’t want to touch any food before,” LaTranae says. “I had to feed her myself. Now she will grasp the spoon and bring it to her mouth with food. Nine times out of 10, she will put the spoon back into the bowl.” One step at a time, Keriel is becoming more independent!
“I think she is ready to do more,” says Rachel Kim, Keriel’s lead teacher. “I am preparing braille letters and numbers so she can begin exposure to braille language.” Also, Keriel is working on simple sign language, which will help her communicate. “She is catching on fast,” Rachel says, “We have high hopes for her.”
LaTranae is happy that Keriel is doing well. “I love the atmosphere at the school,” she says. “I’m glad they are here for us.”
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September 17, 2021