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South Jordan Journal

Teaching Bingham High special education continues even at a distanceding virtual activities for residents

May 13, 2020 11:15AM ● By Julie Slama

Bingham High life skills teacher Lexie Waite communicates remotely to her students during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Waite)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Bingham High life skills teacher Lexie Waite isn’t sitting idly by wondering how her 10 students in her special education class are doing during the coronavirus pandemic school closure .

“It is disheartening for students who are in their senior year and may lose some skills they’ve learned,” she said. “Once they graduate, they need to be ready for adult life, and for others not to have the steady progress they’ve been making, may not be advancing as much. But I’m still trying to find ways to connect with them and help them,”

While Waite can’t divulge which severe disabilities her students have, she said typically there are students with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism. She said her students typically need to be exposed to skills at least seven times or they won’t retain that knowledge.

“We don’t want to lose that knowledge in this new routine and lifestyle,” she said. “Some students may not understand that they aren’t on vacation since they are at home, so I’ve worked with each family to set up a schedule, when they need to get up, get dressed, have breakfast and begin their school work.” She added that she heard from two families that it immediately helped their students.

All students have their own individualized education plans, so Waite created individual packets that were sent to the students’ homes. Many packets contain worksheets as well as data sheets, which includes a rating system if students retain the information.

“It may be daunting to parents, especially if they’re still working and helping other children at home,” she said. “There’s a lot going on there, and it looks differently for each family, but if other kids can help devote time to helping their sibling, then they are learning a valuable teaching skill and reinforcing their own learning.” Waite said she knows of at least one of her families has found that beneficial.

Waite also is providing support to the families by videoconferencing parents to explain and support them while they learn ways to teach students.

Typical subject areas may be math, where they learn how to tell time or be able to give money to match a price of an item; English, where they practice filling out forms for a job or identification card; and keyboarding skills.

Waite would like to hold a Google Classroom meeting where the students can interact with each other, but that is difficult.

“Most of the students don’t have phones, so school has been their social outlet,” she said. “But maybe families could help them get online if we can do it just so they can say hi to their classmates.”

Another idea that she hopes to do is provide a supplemental activities or service projects for the family to do together.

“For example, they could make a card to a family member or another, and then the student could practice writing a letter to include in it and address the envelope,” she said.

Waite also said her peer tutors are reaching out, emailing students and trying to individually link with the students as well.

“We want them to still have a connection with the school even though we aren’t meeting here every day,” she said. “We still want them to know we care and support them. We want to make sure they’re getting the help they need.”