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Schools, parents meeting needs of students facing behavioral, mental challenges during pandemic

For students in need of special care, virtual learning presents additional hardships.

With many schools deciding whether to have learning in-person or online, some students are facing additional challenges.

The Buckeye Ranch is busy preparing for back-to-school at The Bonner Academies. The school brings together education and mental health treatment for children who face mental and behavioral challenges. 

"They can come to school with us and they can get a dose of mental health, as well as academic support," said Ann Woodford, director of education-based services and foster care at The Buckeye Ranch. "We can start the day with things like guided reading. We can start with meditation. We can start with yoga ... we allow a lot of getting up, walking around, taking breaks. We try to mitigate frustration." 

Woodford said this nontraditional format is extremely difficult to offer online, especially given the challenges of the students the school serves. That is why the school will welcome students back in-person after Labor Day. 

"When you move online, some of those things are not possible because we are just trying to give kids academic units when they need social-emotional care too," Woodford said. 

Given the size of their school, it's easier for them to social distance and implement safety policies. 

"Literally every child will have a temperature check at the door. When they enter our school, we have a hand--washing station ... we have the ability to only have 12 kids in a classroom, which allows for great physical separation of children," Woodford said. 

Michelle Brown's 9-year-old son attends The Bonner Academies. She said her family struggled in the spring when in-person learning was not an option. 

"Having children who need that extra help at home without that extra help is really hard," Brown said. "He needs the structure. He needs the same structure every day that I can't give him in the same way."

Woodford offered some tips for parents who need to balance their child's special needs and learning from home. 

  1. Have a plan and schedule (set a time to go to bed and wake up) 
  2. Set aside a quiet space for learning without distractions (toys, siblings etc.)
  3. Allow time to alleviate stress and frustration (step away, get some exercise etc.)

To learn more about The Buckeye Ranch and The Bonner Academies, click here. 

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