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The Pandemic’s Mental Health Toll on Education

TORONTO — Another broken laptop charger meant another few days logged out of classes, said mother Rona Bailey in a phone interview. She had to wait for Nelson Mandela Park Public School, which is already under pandemic lockdown regulation, to provide a new one for her autistic son Romell.

She said online learning has been a difficult transition for Romell because he is uncomfortable with a lack of structure. The fourth grader has high-functioning autism and often mishandles his computer equipment out of frustration.

“The 2020-2021 school year is a flop,” said Bailey.

With all the disruptions in the school year, the pandemic exacerbated mental health concerns for many in the school system, like Bailey and her son Romell.

Professor Nancy Walton of Ryerson University, who specializes in issues around parenting children with special needs, said in an email interview that the pandemic challenged parents’ mental health. Performing duties the school system would ordinarily handle is a strain.

“Many routines have been upended by the pandemic restrictions and this can present a serious challenge for many parents and children with special needs,” said Walton.