SEMINOLE, Florida – At times, 21-year-old Aaron Moore has found the past year as confusing as everyone else.
“I was more confused about the toilet paper, because it’s only toilet paper. I don’t understand,” he recalls.
Moore was diagnosed with autism at the age of 7.
“I had to figure out how far 6 feet away was because I was still learning math at this point,” he said.
Her mother, Angela Moore, was worried when her school went virtual in March 2020.
“I was so worried. The only social interaction he had was once a week at church and even that was interrupted,” she said.
But they were happy when his school offered in-person learning in the fall. Moore attends LiFT, or Learning Independence For Tomorrow, at Seminole. Over 90% of LiFT students have autism.
“Ever since I went to LiFT, I broke the shell, as some people say,” Moore explained.
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Older students like Moore learn useful life skills like CPR at LiFT University, while younger students at LiFT Academy receive education in an environment that celebrates neurodiversity. But the pandemic hasn’t made it easy.
“We wanted to make sure that not only the educational needs of our students were met, but also that social bond and sense of community that our students really need. So yes, that was a big concern,” explained Shawn Naugle. , executive director of LiFT.
Implementing social distancing measures meant reducing social interactions and breaking routines that children with special needs need.
David Grigg, internship coordinator and teacher at LiFT, says it was important for students to have more social time, even for those who learn from a distance.
“It was just a difficult transition to think about how we’re going to advance these social skills that they were developing so well. And are we going to see a regression?” Grigg asked.
They do not have; in fact, they started to see a progression.
“Over time, I was amazed at how quickly they were able to adapt to a new way of doing it,” Grigg explained.
Angela Moore agrees.
“Aaron handled better than I did in some situations. I don’t even think he missed a beat,” she said.
“This is something we tell them all the time while they are working. Things arise, problems arise and life is never perfect,” Grigg added.
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