Gov. Tony Evers ordered closure of all Wisconsin schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. The absence of school is particularly challenging for families with children with disabilities.  

Teresa Lockbaum is a single mother of three children, one with a disability. Lockbaum said at the start of 2020 she re-entered the workforce after 12 years of being a stay-at-home mother. With two of her children at college, Lockbaum said she is the sole caretaker for her son Nick Lockbaum, a 12-year-old boy with down syndrome. 

According to Teresa Lockbaum, she began the year by launching a financial advising firm, a new business venture for her. After merely two months in a newly-rented office, she made the decision to pull her son out of school, before Evers’ order took effect. She and her son are now living, working and schooling from home.

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Lockbaum was concerned about her son’s ability to fight coronavirus because of his long history of physical health conditions.

“If he gets a cold or something like that we usually end up keeping him home for a week or so because he just needs that separation and time to heal, so it doesn’t develop into pneumonia,” Lockbaum said. 

Lockbaum said Nick has been hospitalized 15 times for pneumonia.

After Nick’s open-heart surgery at the age of 10, he has not needed to be administered into a primary-care facility for pneumonia or any other virus.

“We’re concerned about his overall health to begin with,” Lockbaum said. “He’s got some autoimmune and health issues that make him more susceptible to small things, more severe infections, even from something minor.” 

The rising global pandemic made Lockbaum very concerned. As for her and her son’s daily life, much has changed. 

Lockbaum said neither her or her son leave the house, and Lockbaum is taking extra precautions about sanitation.

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“I don’t go to Target, I don’t go to the grocery store, I have everything delivered. I wipe things down before they come into the house,” Lockbaum said.

Her son’s education and her ability to work have both been greatly impacted. According to Lockbaum, Nick is a fifth-grader at North Hudson Elementary School.

As a child with special needs, Nick would spend half the day in a typical classroom setting and the rest in “pull-out” services such as speech, physical and occupational therapy and adaptive physical education.

Lockbaum said before Nick was pulled from physical schooling, he would be in elementary school for eight hours a day. 

“At all times he has 10 to 12 people that attend to his needs during the school day,” Lockbaum said.

Now, his crucial special attention and education is drastically limited, Lockbaum said.

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According to Lockbaum, as Nick’s school district began online education, she received weekly lesson plans to educate her son. Unfortunately, those plans were generic and made for all students in the fifth-grade curriculum. 

Lockbaum said as the weeks went on, she was able to meet with Nick’s teachers to curate more specialized lesson plans. Still, the all-online nature of schooling presented many challenges.

“He loves to push buttons, so I might start him on a video to watch something and within ninety seconds he’s off on another page looking at something else,” Lockbaum said. 

Lockbaum said as Nick is still learning to read and write, he needs constant assistance in order to be productively educated. Lockbaum praises his teachers for the lessons.

Lockbaum said she doesn’t have the time needed for the proper instruction Nick needs because of her business, and what he really requires is one-on-one instruction.

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According to Lockbaum, she doesn’t feel that Nick responds to her as well as he might to his teachers and the lesson plans provided often have up to six hours of educational content.

“I am maybe hitting an hour of it because that’s all we seem to get through in a day,” Lockbaum said. “I just don’t feel like he’s getting even a portion hardly of what he gets during the school day typically.”

Josh Dotseth, a recent high school graduate with a rare and debilitating form of autism, Pitt Hopkins syndrome, requires 24/7 constant care.

Dotseth’s sibling Max Dotseth, a college student taking online classes, said the family worries Josh’s full-time caretaker, a senior citizen, will no longer be able to assist in attending to Josh Dotseth’s constant needs.

“If I can afford to not have a job, I’m [going to] not do that because I don’t wanna bring anything into the house,” Max Dotseth said. 

Josh Dotseth’s condition brings respiratory issues by nature, and Max Dotseth fears Josh Dotseth’s is at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

“[The stay at home order] changed everything about everything we do,” Lockbaum said.