“Yesenia was always a creative child,” says Mr. Sorto of his 12-year-old daughter. “But she was also anxious and hyperactive, and her learning difficulties made it hard for her to learn without special help. The pandemic just made it so much harder for her to focus and learn.”
Like too many children, Yesenia struggled with distance learning. She no longer received the hands-on help she received in school, and her autism made it difficult for her to connect socially with other students through the screen. She became depressed and began to develop new behavioral health issues – including angry outbursts, crying and withdrawing from activities she once enjoyed. She lost her love for school. Her dad grew concerned and called their Children’s Law Center lawyer.
“Yesenia struggled without the help she was used to receiving in school – she just didn’t want to do anything,” Mr. Sorto explains. “My biggest concern was that her behavior changed completely. The pandemic was leaving her behind – academically and socially.”
Thankfully, Children’s Law Center was already working with Yesenia before the pandemic. Her pediatrician had referred her to us when her former school was not accommodating her needs. We advocated for a switch to a new school where she received specialized learning support that could better assist with her autism. We also obtained extra hours of education support to make up for time she missed at the old school. And importantly, her new school was committed to engaging with Mr. Sorto, finding English-Spanish translators to keep him updated on Yesenia’s progress.
However, these promising changes stalled with the pandemic, and Yesenia was quickly falling behind again. Children’s Law Center again worked with her school to identify and implement new strategies to help her adapt to distance learning.
“Yesenia is artistic and creative – she loves to paint and write stories,” says her attorney Kate Rheaume. “Once her school incorporated her lessons in ways that naturally interested Yesenia – like comic books that encouraged her to read and art class first thing each morning – it was easier for her to connect with her lessons even virtually.”
Yesenia began engaging with school again, opened up more during her classes and even started attending some of the school’s virtual social events.
“Things changed when Children’s Law Center got involved,” says Mr. Sorto. “With help from her lawyers and her school, Yesenia is now active in her classes and motivated to learn – and her recent grades are A's.”
Today, Yesenia attends school partly in-person and partly online – but fully excited to learn. She’s better able to connect with her teachers and classmates, and she loves shopping for art supplies with her dad. As Mr. Sorto notes: “The happy and energetic girl I knew is back.”
*We always provide clients the option to change their name or use initials when sharing their story. Names in this story have not been changed, and the family chose the stock photo that is used.