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PGCPS to hold town hall session for families who have children with special needs

The first of a four-part virtual series launches Thursday night to help families, with kids who have disabilities, navigate virtual learning.

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — The transition to virtual learning has been a challenge for many families, especially those with kids who have special needs. 

So, Thursday Prince George’s County Public Schools will launch the first of a four-part virtual series to help parents get ready for the upcoming school year.

RELATED: Prince George's County Public Schools will continue distance learning into 2020-21 school year

When classes moved from in-person to online in the spring because of the pandemic, it was a big adjustment for parents, especially those who have kids with special needs.

Yvette Smith and Sandi Morton have daughters with differing abilities, but they face a similar challenge.

“There was a point when she would sort of disconnect, so we’d have to draw her back with a ‘hey, I need you to pay attention',” said Smith, who has decided to home school her daughter Naomi as she enters ninth-grade. 

Naomi has Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes developmental delays.

RELATED: Pandemic proves extra difficult for those with developmental disabilities

Credit: Yvette Smith

Morton’s youngest daughter, Christina, has Autism and ADHD. Morton has struggled with keeping her engaged in school work as well.

“Trying to keep her focused on what’s being taught has been a challenge, big time,” Morton said. "I've reached out to my friends, we have a support group."

Credit: Sandi Morton

Both moms tell WUSA9 the girls have struggled with staying focused in a non-traditional classroom setting, but they are not giving up. They have started routines and plan to keep the structure going. Morton has a support group she has called on for help. Smith’s neighbor has been homeschooling for four years and has been a good resource.

“It creates anxiety when they’re not sure what to expect because they’re used to certain things,” said Smith about the importance of structure.

“Fortunately, I have the time that I can put in with my children, but I really feel for the parents who had to work eight hours every day,” said Morton.

Prince George’s County Public Schools officials understand the challenge and have dedicated a new four-part virtual series to help parents get through it. 

The first town hall session starts Thursday, Aug. 13 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It’s called, "Gearing up for Distance Learning:  Practical Tips for Caregivers of Students with Disabilities.”

The session will include a presentation on suggestions and strategies for structuring learning schedules, tips for planning, organization and self-advocacy.

Trinell Bowman is the Director of Special Education for the school system. During the session, she’ll be joined by Occupational Instructional Therapist Dorothea Therapy, Board Certificate Behavior Analyst Yvonne Alleyne, Pre-school Instructional Specialist Hope Inglehart, Program Coordinator Marsie Torchon of the Family Support Center and Instructional Specialist for Parent Engagement Beth Diaite.

“One of the things we’re trying to help parents with is: How to set up those routines?” Bowman said. “We’ll actually be walking them through different scenarios and ideas to make it as normal as possible.”

Thursday's session is from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can register by phone or online here.  

The rest of the schedule is below: 

A repeat of Session One: Monday, Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. 

Session Two: Will be pre-recorded and available Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Session Three: Will be Thursday, Aug. 27 from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

Non-public Session Four: Will be Aug.20 from 6:30p.m. to 7:30p.m. 

All sessions will be recorded, and more workshops will be offered throughout the year.

RELATED: Montgomery Co. child care providers planning in-school services to help parents with distance learning

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