By Jennifer L. Warren
WARWICK – Luis Abramson will do anything for his son, especially when it comes to his education.
For two years the Warwick resident, father and vocal advocate for students with disabilities, drove his son Matthew to Ellenville, a three hour round trip commute, ensuring that he have a quality education, aimed at his unique Autism needs. From ages 3-5, Matthew attended the Center for Spectrum Services, where his skills flourished on multiple levels. So, when Matthew was on the verge of attending kindergarten and that Center offered to redesign its program, replicating it at the Warwick Public Schools (also exists in Pine Bush), Luis and his wife Karen could not have been happier. For seven months, Matthew attended a highly specialized eight student classroom, where every child was provided with an aide as well as the necessary tools he or she needed to best learn. All was well, until the pandemic hit.
Luis and his wife quickly learned just how specialized education is for learners like their son.
As with all students in the Warwick Valley School District (as well as all over the Hudson Valley), Matthew was assigned a Chrome Book to keep his education active during these challenging times. Almost immediately he became frustrated with using the necessary mouse to navigate this required learning tool. Compounding Matthew’s sudden and new education reality were his already difficult communication issues as well as need to be a hands-on learner. The combination resulted in a host of new learning obstacles, ones that his parents felt ill-equipped to navigate.
“He just didn’t want to do any of his work,” said his mother Karen. “It’s such a stressor as parents to help your child with his school work when you have your own work to do and can’t even figure out a way to make them comfortable with the technology they are using; it leads to all kinds of frustration on all ends.”
However, according to both parents there is a very viable, easy, and effective solution: Replace the Chrome Books with iPads for all students, while providing teachers with any needed training. Stocked with 20,000 educational applications, iPads contain an assortment of features, making learning more possible and alluring, especially in the absence of in-person instruction. From Voiceovers, to Screenout Loud Zoom, to Assistive Touch, this technology accommodates the special, individual needs of children of all ages and abilities. Further, these devices have the ability to address a host of communication learner limitations, are simple to use, create opportunities for shared experiences with mainstream peers, and even assist children with hearing impairments. As the pandemic evolves, government officials are considering the possibility of virtual learning spilling over to the fall, increasing the ante to get the right and best technology as soon as possible.
“We have to look at the iPads as the best solution out there for educating our kids,” affirmed Luis. “These area districts are making the choice to use the Chrome Books; we need to get them to see it is not the best option for so many reasons, and in the end, we are going to be paying so much for these Chrome Books and not getting what we need, so as taxpayers, we will end up spending much more in the long run.”
The Abramson’s have seen the marked differential iPads can make in educating our youth.
Their older high school daughter, Elizabeth, who attended a private high school for a couple years before switching to the public schools, regularly used a school- distributed iPad for her studies. It spiked not only her academic learning but overall motivation.
So, what is the solution for making iPads more accessible to our area students? The Abramsons say it all starts with a few pivotal steps
“We need to do things here in the Hudson Valley in a united way as parents to get more for all children, not just ones with intellectual challenges, to help them during these tough times,” said Luis. “It has to be an entire area-state initiative, not just one district, but uniform, helping everyone.” He added. “This is not a want, but a real, urgent need for these students to best learn in a potentially long-term situation.”