Established special education systems and language programs are mandatory on campuses nationwide, but the same level of support is not available online. As a result, during the pandemic, 7 million children across America with special needs were incapable of connecting to the trained specialists who once assisted them on a day-to-day basis.
An October survey of 300 parents with K-12 students in special education found that 76% of participants felt their children were unable to learn remotely. Furthermore, 74% of surveyed parents felt their children had exhibited a loss of academic skills since transitioning to school online.
Students with disabilities often need personalized attention and step by step instruction. This is achieved through the creation of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), documents outlining the specific needs and details of a student’s disability for leadership at that child’s school.
However, once the threat of Covid-19 forced students to learn remotely, parents with young special needs children were challenged with parenting AND teaching at home, oftentimes balancing their careers at the same time.
Matters were equally difficult for special education students in higher education. A recent poll of 30,000 college undergraduates found that individuals with disabilities were twice as likely to suffer from unemployment during the pandemic compared to individuals without disabilities. This meant special needs students were also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and a lack of housing/nutrition needs, with 70% of sampled special needs students saying they were food insecure at some point during 2020.
Many special education students in underprivileged areas also found themselves without internet access. Infact, one-third of K-12 students in the United States lack sufficient access to the internet, many of them living in rural and/or low income areas.
While government leaders are actively working to minimize divides, both digitally and demographically, little has been done to improve the online educational experience of students with special needs. Until now.
Designed with every student experience in mind, the ConexED platform offers numerous online tools for special education students and those who instruct them.
Unlike other video conferencing platforms who provide audio/video only, ConexED allows students to connect in numerous ways depending on the physical limitations of their disabilities.
Using the closed captioning feature, lesson participants can engage in meaningful interactions while their words are visually dictated and archived for future viewing. This is ideal for tutors and mental health professionals working with students/staff that may be deaf or hard-of-hearing. These student records are protected under FERPA and HIPAA compliance.
Research has shown that students who are provided with visual aids during lectures oftentimes retain more information and maintain a deeper level of processing. Understanding the significance of visual learning, the ConexED platform was designed to improve overall connectivity in the absence of in-person engagement. Students can utilize our interactive whiteboard to work through math equations and spelling assignments while the instructor or tutor observes firsthand and in real time. Because the whiteboard can be accessed simultaneously with screen sharing, teachers can verbally and visually correct and encourage while students learn and problem solve on their own.
ConexED also offers increased visibility of the student experience through valuable metrics and student feedback. Advisors and counselors can monitor and secure meals for individuals with special needs who might lack the resources otherwise. Students also have the ability to gage their mental and emotional health, choosing one of several icons to convey their feelings on a scale from happy to sad using the “Quick Check-In” tool. These responses are logged, with prompts sent to the correct channels when a student expresses depression or distress.
Students with emotional disabilities represent just 6% of recorded emotional disturbances in schools nationwide. However, this group is often at a higher risk of expulsion and does not receive adequate attention soon enough in their development. Remote learning creates an additional hurdle, further distancing students with special needs from the in-person resources designed to help them. By offering a simple measurement to monitor student emotional health, ConexED provides valuable opportunities for an institution’s mental health professionals to connect with students in need.
Ultimately the secret to success, regardless of whatever physical or emotional limitations a student may have, has and always will be connection. As the world speeds ahead, so will the rapid advancement of technology. It’s our mission to ensure that connection always remains, whether in-person or not.