Families of special education students feeling particular pain of distance learning in pandemic

This article originally appeared in the Press Democrat on August 3, 2020 by Kerry Benefield.


Rebekah Rocha is at her Windsor home doing two — or three — things at once. She’s on the phone and answering the door, all while talking to her daughter, Gigi, who is in the bathroom.

Gigi is nearly 12, the middle of Rocha and her husband Jose’s three children. Gigi was born with 5p- Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes delays in cognition and gross and fine motor skills, as well as in speech and language.

She had been learning to use the toilet but regressed since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools in March. Gigi is nonverbal and Rocha describes her as “severely handicapped,” and yet she thrived in her fifth grade class at Brooks Elementary School last year. There, she received special education support but was also integrated into a general education classroom.