NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Many families are facing a big challenge adjusting to the new normal at schools this year.

CBS2’s Kristine Johnson reports the changes can be even harder on students with special needs.

“What I do know, is I’m terrified,” said Maria Lorenz, who has two sons with autism.

Lorenz isn’t alone. For parents of children with special needs, back to school during the coronavirus pandemic brings an extra layer of anxiety when it comes to health and safety.

“I don’t know that they will take the necessary precautions, as children. I don’t know that the adults will be as precautious as I’ve been with them,” said Lorenz.

Her sons, Daniel, 10; and Robert, 12, will continue with remote learning, for now.

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Lorenz said both boys have shown signs of academic and social regression since being forced out of the classroom.

“They don’s transition well,” she said. “… and the behavior, ‘this is stupid,’ ‘I feel stupid.’ He changed a lot. He wasn’t the happy-go-lucky boy.”

“I understand at school better because they explain it to me more and they don’t make it really confusing and they give me examples,” said Daniel.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“It’s been hard for me because the pandemic started… its been months and it still hasn’t ended yet, and I don’t know why,” said Robert.

“My best tip is build a plan with your child’s support team,” said Arianna Esposito, from Autism Speaks.

Esposito strongly suggests parents call for an individual education plan, or IEP, meeting for your child. It’s especially important to come prepared with notes.

“Lots of notes about what you’re seeing with your child. Challenges, strengths, areas that you think really need to be worked on in order for them to be successful. The more data you have, the better you can advocate for your child,” said Esposito.

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Lorenz feels it’s also critical for administrators to allow parents a seat at the table.

Clear communication and cooperation won’t erase anxiety, but they can make parents feel a little less uneasy about the new normal.

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