This School Year Is Not What Anyone Wanted. But We’ll Make the Most of It

This is certainly true for my daughter. But we will make the best of it. There's no other choice.

by Rob Wrubel
Originally Published: 

Yearbook. Prom. Cheerleading. Our last IEP. Transition. Senior year started with too many different circumstances and without the usual pomp. Still, our family was ready for school and excited for it to be there.

I have a daughter with Down syndrome. Early communication about school for her looked promising a few weeks before the school year began.

“There are student populations who will still need in-person services and supports that are not feasible to accomplish in an all remote learning environment, specifically students receiving special education supports…” a note from the school read.

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Yes! Finally, I thought, someone gets it. My daughter needs more help with classwork. The school environment supports her social inclusion. Computer-based learning where reading is the primary skill doesn’t work well and in-person supports are crucial.

We went to registration. It was outside. Socially-distanced. It felt good to be there. We were greeted with big smiles from everyone. I wanted to hug them and thank them for committing to being in school and getting my daughter back to her people. (But, of course, no hugs allowed).

I should have brought cold drinks and I don’t mean lemonade. Her teachers have dealt with a lot, they needed a celebration. I would have fired up the grill and brought cake, too if the school would have let me.

I was excited for my daughter to rule the school as a senior. Plus, I know too well my limitations as a teacher – if COVID taught me one thing it was that I wouldn’t last two weeks as a teacher.

My euphoria didn’t last. Somewhere between that positive note and registration, her school decided half a day, one day a week would be enough for students in special education. That’s not enough for any student, let alone those with greater education needs.

My daughter can be home alone, if needed. She can turn on her computer, enter passwords, and sometimes even start a web-based video meeting. Most of the time she needs support to get that far. Her sense of time is, well, slightly better than that of a goldfish. Here’s a better example of her time skills. She looks at her clock or phone and tells me it’s 7. That is the time no matter if the clock reads 7:00 or 7:57. Close, but not so close to be on time. Not close enough that assistance from me is not needed.

Other families we know are not so lucky and this short time in school causes havoc on their work and family life. Several of my daughter’s peers have behavioral challenges and those parents need school for respite as well as education.

My three children attend three different schools. They have three different schedules with three different mixes of in-person and virtual learning. I know, I’m lucky that I learned to juggle in gym class many years ago. None of it feels right even though my head tells me that health and safety come first as we navigate the pandemic.

Part of me wants to wait out 2020 – just wake me up when it’s over and we can move on. The rest of me keeps going. School is here and I’m thankful that the summer vacation that started in March is coming to an end. My kids are happier when they’re busy, engaged, and have some semblance of a schedule. Plus, it’s senior year and however it works out, my daughter will make the best of it.

Rob Wrubel is a CFP at Cascade Investment Group who works with individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses on financial planning, including asset management and asset protection, special-needs planning, wealth transfer and retirement plans. He is recognized as an expert on financial planning for special needs families and has written two best-selling books about the subject. Financial Freedom for Special Needs Families: 9 Building Blocks to Reduce Stress, Preserve Benefits, Create a Fulfilling Future and Protect Your Family: Life Insurance Basics For Special Needs Planning.

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