SALT LAKE CITY — Utah started week three of online school for children on Monday after Governor Gary Herbert announced a soft closure due to COVID-19 earlier in the month.
The transition for some families has been relatively painless. But for those who have family members with disabilities, they’re starting to see the impacts on their kids.
Jennie Dopp is a spokesperson for the Utah Parent Center who understands taking care of children with disabilities on a personal level.
Dopp’s 19-year-old, Jackson, was born with a duplicate chromosome and was then diagnosed with autism.
“It’s very rare,” said Dopp. “He’s only one of a few in Utah and when he was diagnosed it, he was one of 11 in the world.”
Jackson loves his job working in the lobby of a local McDonald’s and loves being outside with his community, said Dopp.
“He likes to see people and so it’s an added pressure to keep Jackson engaged and busy, and doing things he likes to do,” said Dopp.
Through the ups and downs, Dopp said it’s crucial to keep data on Jackson’s goals, as well as continue to communicate with his school district—especially if she notices regression in his mental health and behavior.
“That regression can be scary for parents,” said Dopp. “For the child, there may be skills that are lost or there could be a delay.”
One out of six people in Utah are impacted by disability, said Dopp, whose work at the Utah Parent Center is designed to give extra help to all families who might be struggling.
“Whether it’s education and community health, we help that family navigate that challenge and find resources,” said Dopp.
Resources to help parents not feel so isolated in their challenges and resources for those, like Jackson, who are trying to make it through quarantine.
“We have to try to make our new normal,” said Dopp.
The Utah Parent Center provides online trainings for families and will host an online class for parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing on Tuesday. You can find more information here.