NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — After pressure from parents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Friday allowing in-person special education classes to resume this summer.

It’s a welcome relief to many parents of disabled children, who say they cannot wait any longer for these vital services.

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The families have felt forgotten since in-person special needs therapies shut down months ago.

“It is not nearly the same as an actual one-on-one in-person therapy,” mother Danielle Spina told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Her son, Lucas, has physical and developmental disabilities. He was making strides, but Spina says virtual therapy is not enough.

“He is having regression in learning how to walk. He is having regression in talking,” she said.


Kristy Heisel, who has two children with special needs, says virtual physical, occupational and speech therapy are almost impossible for a child with autism.

“He’s been having an increase of meltdowns, depression, anxiety, not understanding why he can’t get the therapy that he needs,” she said.

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Their voices joined in desperation at a rally Friday.

“Distance learning does not work for special needs children,” Assemblyman Mike LePetri said.

He says if camps can open, special needs in-person therapies can safely resume, too.

The issue is also special-needs children in state-run group homes who haven’t had visits in 85 days.

“We haven’t seen our children in over three months, and they don’t understand. Their parents, they think, have forgotten them,” said Suzanne Reek, executive director of the Autism Society.

Under the executive order Cuomo signed Friday, schools must follow all coronavirus guidelines.

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Other education programs are not expected to open until their regions meet the criteria for Phase 4 of the reopening plan.