Southern Westchester BOCES
Rye Brook, New York
Thomas J. Stefanchik, Parent
When the shutdown of schools occurred in March, my wife and I were very concerned about our son, Thomas, who has autism. Thomas, like other individuals with autism, thrives on routine and structure, and the thought of him going from the routine of daily classes at school to unstructured time at home was overwhelming. Fortunately, Southern Westchester BOCES began online classes soon after the shutdown, and this daily schedule helped him cope. But I knew Thomas missed his friends and teachers at BOCES, often asking me, “When can I go back to school?” Furthermore, the importance of daily contact with peers cannot be overstated for individuals with autism; they struggle with verbalization, interpersonal communication, and recognizing and interpreting social cues, struggles which are improved through face-to-face interaction.
In September, Thomas began hybrid instruction, with remote learning on some days and in-person instruction on others. As soon as Thomas returned to school, I could see his mood improve, as though a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Furthermore, Thomas has gotten in trouble before for reprimanding other students in his class when they do not listen to the teacher or follow rules. However, since he has returned to school there has not been a single incident. He also does his homework at night without having to be told to do so or complaining about it. I believe all of this is due to the relief he feels being back at school.
Finally, so successful has the BOCES been at adhering to COVID-19 protocols that not a single positive case has been reported, and the school will now be returning to full in-person instruction by the end of November. And Thomas could not be happier!