Parents of children with autism struggle with back-to-school options

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CLEARFIELD, Utah (ABC4 News) – Parents of children with autism say they feel stuck in limbo, unsure about if and when to send their kids back to the classroom this fall. 

Parents Cassie and Carl Sandusky have four children, three on the autism spectrum. Cassie explained, “There’s a lot of extra that comes along with educating an autistic child.” Their children attend Spectrum Accademy, a charter school that offers specialized schooling for kids with autism. 

During the spring shutdown, the Sandusky’s say online schooling worked well for some children, but not for others. Cassie said, “Our oldest son is in a learning skills classroom that teaches classroom behavior; how do you do that over the internet?”

Now the school year is just weeks away and they’re still making decisions about if and when to send their kids back to the classroom. They have decided that their oldest child who has the most specialized learning model will stay home. Carl said masks are a real challenge, “If you already have a hard time communicating then you put a mask on, that’s going to be even harder and more frustrating for him.” 

For their younger kids, the decision is coming down to a compromise between mental health and physical health. 

Cassie said, “It’s sad that I have to weigh the two, they should be hand in hand, but in this situation, they’re not. In 2012 the CDC said that those with neurological disorders, including those with autism, are at a higher risk of complications from the flu. There’s just not enough known about COVID at this point to know if the same risks apply but I’m assuming better safe than sorry.”

Both parents say the school plans need to have clear guidelines on what happens if someone on campus tests positive before they make a final decision. 

“It’s like constantly living in limbo. We just don’t know. We’re still waiting, we’re still waiting.”

Sarah Martin
Sarah graduated from BYU with a bachelors degree in broadcast journalism. While there, she worked as an anchor and reporter for KBYU’s “Eleven News at Noon.” and received advanced instruction and experience including going to DC to cover the 2016 presidential election.
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