ST. LOUIS ( -- Online learning is hard enough for kids, but parents with students with special needs say their children are getting left behind. 

One local organization is working to keep those kids pressing ahead.

Carnadria Smith says it was the fear of her special needs son falling behind that had her concerned during the coronavirus shutdown.

“I’m not a therapist, I’m just mommy,” said Smith.

She's one of many parents with concerns over virtual learning for students who need alternative learning.

 “Him trying to get through virtual learning, I didn’t know how to navigate that,” she said.  

Her 11-year-old son suffers from Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

Kylann Clayborn is Smith son’s teacher at the Emerson Therapeutic Academy and says during the three months of virtual learning, he saw a significant drop in how student were performing.

“Not being able to sit right there and hold their hand through the work it made it tough,” he said.  

Smith says it’s difficult for parents to take on the role as teacher and therapist while getting through virtual learning.

“This is a first for everybody, so we’re being challenged,” he said.

When students returned to in-person teaching, he saw significant strides with his students.

Students at Emerson experience schooling through smaller class sizes and group therapy sessions.

Since their return, the school has been equipped with PPE and social distancing measures.

So far, no students or teachers have contracted COVID-19. It's a trend the staff wants to stay in place, so students can get the help that they need.

“These kids need somebody to help them keep their reality and be like, hey, we’re here to focus this is time to tap into education,” said Clayborn.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

News 4 Reporter

Ashli Lincoln is a general assignment reporter for News 4 St. Louis

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