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The impact of Coronavirus on children with disabilities and special educational needs

by Victoria Federico

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The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the education of all children and young people. However, those with special educational needs and disabilities, including acquired brain injuries have been severely impacted. The uncertainty of the landscape with COVID-19 has been challenging and worrying for most people, but the impact of this on children and young people with a brain injury, and their families, has been extremely unsettling.

Families have lost their support networks and the respite that their child being in school provided. Parents/carers have had to manage the needs of their children 24/7 for months on end. 
We have reports from parents and know from experience with our clients that statutory services, particularly education, have had to be pushed additionally hard to ensure these children and young people are not excluded entirely from education and their much needed special educational provision.

Schools have worked hard to enable students to access online learning where physical attendance at school has not been possible, but this took some time to establish. School staff have reported to us that differentiating work remotely for pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans has been extremely challenging. This is in addition to schools often operating with reduced staff capacity.

Therapy services have had to adapt to provide the direct therapies and advice to school staff remotely. This has worked well for many children, but they have still missed out on the social interaction with their therapist.

The Education team at Shoosmiths has assisted parents and carers to ensure that the special educational provision in their child’s Education, Health and Care Plan has been put into place in the most appropriate format possible with the restrictions. We have worked with schools and Local Authorities to ensure these children have accessed all they possibly can.

However, the most difficult aspect for our clients’ children is the loss of social interaction with their peers. This is having hugely damaging effect on their social skills and mental wellbeing. Seeing their peers on a screen is not the same for children with a brain injury, and they have missed out on the social cues and working with and alongside peers face to face. There is a lot of work to be done with and for these children now restrictions are lifting to ensure that they receive as many opportunities as possible.

There will inevitably be a change in the needs of children with brain injuries as a result of the pandemic and this may lead to necessary changes and additions to their Education, Health and Care Plans. An example would be to include additional social groups, or direct therapies to help them to make up for lost time. The Education team at Shoosmiths can assist with this.

Victoria Federico is a solicitor and head of education law at Shoosmiths, having specialised in education law, particularly special educational needs law, since 2008. Victoria works for parents and young people with a range of special educational needs and disabilities including brain injuries, spinal injuries, autism, cerebral palsy, visual difficulties, learning difficulties, dyslexia, dyspraxia, genetic disorders, down syndrome and hearing difficulties.

Victoria Federico

Pictured above: Victoria Federico.

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