NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. – The adjustment to online learning hasn't been easy for teachers, parents, or students, but it's even harder for students with special needs.

Accommodations that would normally be provided in school are much harder to accomplish virtually. Teachers have been forced to figure out how to give these students the support they need to be successful in a remote environment.

“Most of our families said that they feel they learned more about their child and more about how to help support them because of the instruction we provided,” says Emily Austin, the department chair of the Exceptional Children's Program at Wrightsboro Elementary.

Teachers have been in constant contact with parents to understand how the school can better support their instruction at home. Last school year ending online allowed teachers and parents to discover what wasn't working and figure out how to make this year a smoother transition.

“I want to be involved in his school,” says Sarah Huber, a fourth grade parent at Wrightsboro Elementary. “This is a little more involved than I had planned. I never planned on being a homeschool mom.”

And while nothing can prepare a parent to take on the role of a teacher, Huber says they've equipped her as best they can to effectively teach her son at home. He has dyslexia and reading is a challenge for him. For students like him however, teachers are continuing small group instruction where one-on-one time is easier to come by.

“They work with him, they call him, they do Zoom meetings,” Huber says. “He reads. He goes through his words. If he has an issue with something, they are very patient. Much more patient than mom is.”

Special needs teachers are helping their students to recognize stressors in the environment around them and finding ways to refocus and give their brains a break when the virtual setting gets overwhelming. These teachers have the advantage of working with their students for years, which makes it easier to tell a general education teacher how to best help each child.

“Because we know them so well, you know which students you may have to do something extra or different with,” Austin says.

Although remote instruction is a challenge, both parents and teachers seem optimistic as they strive to provide their students with the best education possible.