News: How have siblings with disabilities (and their family) responded to the pandemic?

Big surprise: It was different!

In an extended story in the Hechinger Report ("In one house, two brothers with disabilities had opposite pandemic experiences: One fell behind. One leaped ahead."), Maritza L. Félix provided a sensitive and straight-forward accounting of the difficulties families with children with disabilities encountered during the 2020 and 2021 years—and problems with which they must contend for pending periods of schooling. She recounted the challenges and adaptations that Dana De La Torre and her two sons, Lincoln and Lonnie Hermosillo, confronted and made while managing schooling in conditions that will probably be familiar to many parents of children with disabilities.

Here is Ms. Félix's lead ("lede?"):

It’s 7:00 in the morning and there’s no peace in the De La Torre home. Dana De La Torre wakes up her children, Lincoln and Lonnie Hermosillo, to get ready for school. It’s the same Monday to Friday routine: Get up, change clothes, have breakfast, and turn on the laptops.

Each boy likes to eat something different for breakfast. Lonnie dresses up, and Lincoln complains because he doesn’t want to change out of his pajamas.

“Lonnie, Lincoln, hurry up, school is about to start!” De La Torre shouts from the kitchen. “Did you brush your teeth? Did you turn on your laptops? Where did you leave your backpacks?” If everything is quiet, she worries. “What can these children be doing?” she wonders out loud.

This report is what is known in the news business as a "human interest story," I think. Many of us are familiar with such stories appearing in the popular press. In this instance, Ms. Félix did not fall into familiar traps. Her reporting is not pitying, fawning, or condescending; it's simply fundamental story telling that captures some important nuance. For example, as Ms. Félix told it,

  • Kids with disabilities are just as individual as their non-disabled peers; they are not the stereotypes of their diagnoses: the "autistic" or "intellectually disabled."

  • The pandemic was a horror show for just about everyone, but over-generalizing that view—it was bad for everybody's development—ignores individual effects where some children have done quite well.

  • Existing at the intersection of multiple risk factors—disability, ethnicity, bi-lingualism, etc.—does not necessarily create doomsday outcomes. This family seems to be adapting quite well.

So, kudos to Ms. Félix for a sensitive story about kids with disabilities and their families. I think the story could be helpful to at least three audiences: (a) educators (inservice and preservice) gain insight into the world of people with whom we work, (b) parents who might find beneficial the account of other's experiences, and (c) the general public who might not know or might have forgotten that everything in the world of disabilities is not solely orchids or solamente las cebolas.

Read Ms. Félix's story (allow some time; it's longish). Note that it is also available in Spanish, for those SETters who might know parents or educators who would prefer leer in Español.

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