Franklin County mom says students with special needs should be in the classroom as much as possible

Longtime autism advocate Lavada Guthrie worries her 15-year-old daughter with autism will suffer educational and social losses from not being at school
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 5:55 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - “She liked going to school. She still loves going to school, just can’t go.”

That’s the predicament for Lavada Guthrie’s 15-year-old daughter, Audrianna, who has autism.

“We knew it was going to be a transition to high school. We just didn’t know that there wasn’t going to be any transition to high school and no finish to 8th grade at all,” says Guthrie.

Audrianna has an I.E.P., or Individualized Education Program

Just as it was for many others, Guthrie says finishing last year virtually was a challenge for her daughter.

“It doesn’t mean she didn’t at least attempt the at-home work and check Google classroom and things like that, but it’s not the same,” says Guthrie.

Guthrie worries the longer her daughter is out of school, the more her academics and social skills will suffer.

“I would really encourage every school district, including ours, to think very strongly about kids with disabilities that do come to school, that want to come to school, a lot of them need to be at school in order to get a meaningful education,” she says.

Guthrie does advocacy work through the Virginia Autism Project, which recently hosted a webinar on managing special education during the pandemic.

Her biggest piece of advice to other parents of kids with special needs: Don’t take anything less than what’s written in your child’s I.E.P.

“Stay adamant, don’t back down. Just like any other time before pandemic and after, you know what’s best and you know what works.”

Guthrie says there’s more helpful information for parents of kids with special needs here.

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