RALEIGH, N.C. – A mother of two children with special needs said Tuesday, small-group instruction might be a good way to address special-needs curricula.

Hannah Russell's son, Kayden, has autism and her daughter, Gianna, has a sleeping disorder and ADHD. They respond very differently to the all-online curriculum schools are adopting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russell said while Kayden prefers online learning because it limits social interactions, Gianna is unable to concentrate on a screen for long periods and cannot adhere to strict login times due to sleep cycle issues.

A number of school districts in North Carolina will begin the year with an all-online curriculum, including Wake and Cumberland counties. Russell said this could cut off parents from support they receive from their child's school.

Some 211,000 children in North Carolina public schools have special needs.

Russell has enrolled her children in online classes for the duration of the school year but said not every parent will be able to make this work.

“If a parent works full time, if a parent works part time, if a parent has another child, how do you get that?” she said. “At schools, we have support personnel, we have one-on-one aides, there are paraprofessionals, the teachers are certified, EC teachers are certified, so they've been to school for specialized knowledge and parents haven't.”

Russell said one solution might be to have special education teachers visit children's homes and teach to groups of about five or so. She said that would limit the risk of large gatherings while still giving students with special needs one-on-one instruction if they need it.

She is currently gathering a group of parents of special-needs children to work with educators on this or a similar solution.