Experience stories


Closer look

Benjamin is 14 years old and lives in Santa Barbara California with his dad, myself (mom - Dena), and little brother. He received most of his instruction in a special day class until March and was fully included in art and P.E. classes with his typically developing peers. Benjamin uses a speech app (SnapCore) to communicate along with gestures and has been walking independently for the past four years.

Before COVID-19 Benjamin had a full schedule. After school he had either OT, PT, ABA, or horseback riding and was about to start Challengers Little League again. He loves seeing all the people in his life as well as greeting strangers. He had a lot of fun watching his brother play sports and was looking forward to the spring soccer season.

When COVID-19 first hit, it was rough for the first few weeks. Quarantine started a week before our spring break, so we just told Benjamin that everyone went on vacation early. He really did not understand what was happening and was perseverating daily about his teachers, therapists, the bus, riding horses, going to the park, seeing grandparents. Like everyone else, his world had been turned upside down.


When I first began remote learning with Benjamin the repetitiveness was overwhelming, so I reached out to our ABA agency for support. Our supervisor helped me create additional icons for our daily schedule that we had started using to show when therapies would take place. Pre-COVID Benjamin would wake up asking to see his ABA therapists right away, so we were working on concepts like “before” and “after” and days of the week.

When school began remotely, I created a daily schedule for all the home activities and another for People I See This Week. I asked all his paras, teachers, specialists, and therapists to send me selfies, and our ABA supervisor created sheets of faces for me to cut out and laminate, as well as additional icons for the daily schedule.

It took him a little while to settle into the routine. Before school restarted, his teacher stopped by the house and dropped off some reading and math packets and visited for a bit from a distance. That made Benjamin’s day! Once school started it required my full assistance for him to participate in remote learning. His teacher had a class meeting every Monday morning. The students had a chance to interact and after a few weeks they included speech or adapted PE for the group in these sessions. Then Benjamin met with a para educator (under the teacher’s supervision) for reading and math once a week. I taught him these subjects the other days of the week. He also had a speech session as well as adapted P.E. and met again with his teacher during his office hours on Friday. We opted out of general ed Art and P.E. as I was also trying to support my other son and we had P.T. (from a therapist at school and outside school) and O.T. exercises to complete. We did our own art and sent in photos to his art teacher.

Benjamin’s biggest struggle was not understanding why he couldn’t see everyone in person. He especially missed riding horses. At one point one of the teachers at the equestrian center sent him a personalized video from the horse he used to ride. Having his dad at home working but not available to play with was pretty challenging, as well. We turned the playroom into an office and had to add a lock to the door to keep Benjamin from interrupting my husband’s classes. We were so grateful to have the space for each teacher and student to work in peace. We know not everyone had that privilege.

Benjamin did a great job with remote speech therapy from school. Adapted P.E. (AEP) group sessions were more challenging since he needs assistance from me to do the group exercises. The APE teacher provided some activity choices and videos related to different goals, and I preferred the option to choose some and record them each day in an APE log. Our P.T. at school gave the option of Zoom sessions or receiving activities to do with Benjamin. We opted for the activities and a weekly check in with the P.T.

This worked well for Benjamin and our family, as my husband could help me when he was finished teaching. Our P.T. and O.T. outside school also sent exercises, which we incorporated into the daily schedule.

In the classroom setting Benjamin is extremely distracted and wants to attend to everything and everybody. He is extremely social. So, having his para educators on a screen helped him focus his attention, and then having me as his 1:1 physical support really worked well for him. It was exhausting for me at times, but it was also a great opportunity to see how others worked with him and to be able to collaborate with them on curriculum. Benjamin loved being able to see all his friends and the adults in his school life, which made him happy. He also liked the predictable routine of school even though it was remote.

I appreciated the teacher’s flexibility and willingness to work with our family’s schedule and needs since we had one person teaching and two students learning remotely. The master schedule I created and had on the refrigerator to keep track of everyone’s activities was quite something. Benjamin also enjoyed participating in some of his brother’s remote learning assignments such as observing animals via webcams at zoos and aquariums. On the days that I taught reading, I would add in other activities to go along with the stories including videos, art activities, songs, games, and puzzles. During math time we tried to do hands-on activities like counting, matching, and sorting coins to make things more engaging and to work on OT skills.

Benjamin would have loved more social time with his friends and other students even if remote. I am hopeful that with more time to plan for remote learning, his high school teacher will incorporate some group lessons and fun interactions. Benjamin misses riding horses so much! Watching videos of horses just isn’t the same as being in the saddle. Some of the curriculum was a bit advanced for him and needed to be adapted. As a former teacher I was able to find appropriate activities, use them, and share what we were working.

The most important things were building on relationships we had already established with teachers and therapists and giving them grace in a very new situation for all. Along with that empathy, though, came the clarity and motivation to ask for what we needed to support Benjamin. Whether it was schedule icons or the flexibility to participate in therapies in real time or on our own, we needed to create a plan that worked for our family and that especially worked for Benjamin. I have already reached out to Benjamin’s new teacher at the high school and look forward to sharing with her what worked and didn’t work in the spring and hearing what she has planned.

Find other pages that share the same topic as this page (special) Education13 (special) Education8

We want to thank Benjamin’s Mother, Dena, for sharing Benjamin’s story with us.

Page history
Last modified by Gerritjan Koekkoek on 2020/11/03 14:42
Created by Gerritjan Koekkoek on 2020/11/03 09:55



About the website contents

All of the information on this WebSite is for education purposes only. The place to get specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment is your doctor. Use of this site is strictly at your own risk. If you find something that you think needs correction or clarification, please let us know at: 

Send a email: info@cdlsWorld.org