Safely Back to School: Families of students with special needs switch to in-person learning

Marvin Selva’s daughter Ambreen thrives on interaction with students and teachers
Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 08:18:23-04

Safely Back to School is a new initiative from WRTV to help empower parents, students and educators to make decisions based on facts to safely return to the classroom. Click here for more stories and resources.

INDIANAPOLIS — Families of students with special needs say going back to school has been a struggle, as parents look to balance their child’s health and safety needs, their education, as well as access to services.

Many Indiana school districts have been back in class for several weeks now, which has given parents some time to figure out what’s working and what’s not.

For father Marvin Selva, pick up and drop off is now part of his daily routine.

His daughter Ambreen, 6, has Down’s syndrome and is attending in-person classes at Abraham Lincoln Elementary in Perry Township.

WRTV first introduced you to Ambreen and Marvin back in July, when Marvin decided to do remote learning for his daughter because he was concerned about whether Ambreen could keep her mask on all day.

PREVIOUS | Parents grapple with back to school decisions

Marvin said they lasted a week doing virtual learning.

"It became very difficult,” Marvin said. “I thought I was going to be able to juggle it, but working from home full time on the phone was very difficult to take time to do the work with her, so then I'd try to do it after work, and then she was already burned out.”

Marvin said his daughter when she was doing remote learning, she was also missing out on in-person services like occupational, physical and speech therapies as well as socializing with other kids.

"She needs and needed that interaction,” Marvin said. “For her in particular. It's something to keep her socialized with other people and not isolate her. Like it or not, we look at other people doing stuff and we learn as well and we pick up on it."

Marvin says Ambreen has thrived since she’s been back in class with her fellow students.

INSOURCE, a state resource center for families with special needs says now that school is underway for most districts, they’re hearing concerns from families across the state.

"It's definitely not business as normal,” Joel Boehner, executive director at INSOURCE, said. “Kids are not getting what they're used to getting. I know there are families are concerned that are not getting what they need. That's where some tension comes in."

INSOURCE wants families to be aware that schools still have to follow a child’s Individualized Education Plan or IEP.

INSOURCE can help families navigate problems with their child’s education or access to services.

Also, the Indiana Department of Education also has staff who can help mediate disputes between parents and local school districts.

"Really the only way to get to the bottom of that is to meet, to communicate and get to the bottom of it,” Boehner said. “Every case is different. If a family has concerns about their child’s education, we’re a free resource to them. ”

INSOURCE can be reached at 1-800-332-4433 and

Marvin says Ambreen has adjusted well to the new COVID-19 rules at school.

“That was one of the big concerns, will she be able to keep the mask on,” Marvin said. “She’s done really well with it.”

Marvin said he’s thankful his daughter is back in school, and thankful her school districts gives families a choice between in-person and virtual learning.

“I’m still scared. I’m not going to tell you I’m not,” Marvin said. “My biggest concern is, is she ever going to come home with something that she caught.”


Perry Township Schools is committed to providing high-quality instruction to every student. Educators are keenly focused on ensuring students, who are enrolled in special education and general education programs, receive equitable access to learning resources in-person or online.

Despite the challenges that have emerged during the pandemic, teachers continue to build relationships with parents. They have ongoing conversations to ensure students get individualized therapies and services, as well as meet academic and social goals.

Also, we encourage parental involvement. Parents should always contact the student’s principal or teacher to discuss general concerns or questions or to request a Case Conference meeting. We consider accommodations on a case-by-case basis, to meet each students’ unique needs.

The success of every child is significantly influenced by continuous communication between parents/guardians and educators.