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Special education teachers in Virginia get creative to help young students learn from a distance

Some Virginia teachers are going above and beyond to help special education students learn using "sensory bins."

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — For many, returning to virtual learning brings significant challenges especially for the early childhood special education community.

From verbal to physical challenges--early childhood education teachers such as Mary Taylor see it all. Those children range in age from two to five years old.

“We get a huge range in our classroom,” said Taylor.

To help students learn from a distance she and other teachers are trying something new.

It’s called a sensory bin.

In this case, it means putting together several things: a holder to organize supplies, a tray to give each student a designated learning space and a box to put sensory items that students touch to learn from.

“Sensory is very calming. And it also makes learning fun,” said Taylor.

Taylor is trying to make them for her class. She said it’s important for students to have their own supplies at home, to learn while away from teachers, and for when they return to school.

“It’s hard, it’s challenging,” said Taylor. 

“We are kind of being directed to have areas so that they can have their own supplies.”

Students won’t share supplies, and bigger plastic tubs can also be used to help maintain social distance.

For example, students would sit in their tub during storytime, instead of at a table together.

Parent Samantha Stepp says her son was in Taylor's class.

“I feel like we all got a lesson in exactly what teachers do last spring because we had to figure it out,” said Stepp. 

“I think the bin idea is a wonderful idea.”

Taylor said she’s paying for school supplies. 

“We are a Title I school. So, it’s a little bit more challenging at our school,” said Taylor.

She said teachers spend a lot of their own money.

Taylor said it would make a big difference if she didn't have to purchase supplies using her own money. 

“Huge. I mean every teacher would appreciate it I think,” she said.

Taylor said the sensory bins are a necessary expense for student success. 

"It’s important, I mean we are just going to have to make it happen,” she said.

13News Now is your back-to-school station. Check out more Back To School stories.