PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Angela Cambio’s son Luca used to love school.

But that was prior to the pandemic.

Now, she tells 12 News it’s the complete opposite.

“He says, ‘I don’t want to go to school. I hate school,'” Cambio said. “I really feel like he’s gone back in his shell.”

Cambio said her son, who’s been diagnosed with ADHD and high-functioning autism, went months without the services he’s supposed to receive under his Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) when Foster-Glocester Regional School District shifted to virtual learning.

“I know our school system tried their best to offer those services, but how do you offer one-on-one service through a computer?” Cambio asked.

Parents Together Action, a national parent-led organization with more than 2 million members, surveyed more than 1,500 families throughout the pandemic.

The organization found that 20% of families were receiving the services their child was entitled to under their IEP, while 39% claimed they weren’t receiving any support.

Renee Hanley, director of community and home therapeutic services at The Groden Center, said they were flooded with calls from anxious and frustrated parents in need of additional support.

Hanley said they’re still helping families with the lingering impacts of remote learning.

“I think virtual learning was great for kids in that it helped them stay connected and helped people stay relevant in their lives,” Hanley explained. “But over time, it became harder and harder for our kids.”

Cambio said what was lost both academically and socially is catching up with Luca, who’s now a third grader. She’s frustrated and feels like students are being moved up to the next grade regardless of whether they have the skills to do so.

“They’re moving all the children along on a conveyor belt, it’s not just my child,” she added. “It’s just more difficult for children with special needs who don’t have the ability to turn back the clock and be retaught that education.”

As she works to make up for lost time, Cambio has taken matters into her own hands to ensure this never happens again.

Cambio said she’s asked her son’s school district to add special language into Luca’s IEP so that, should there ever be another shift to virtual learning, he has to be afforded in-person services, as long as it’s safe for him and the teachers.

She’s urging other parents in her situation to do the same by advocating for their child and knowing what they’re entitled to under state law, including any services that may have been missed.

Cambio also suggests that parents seek out their school district’s Special Education Advisory Committee, which she’s now the chair of in Foster-Glocester.

More resources for parents of students with special needs: