‘They deserve it’: Parents of special needs students turn to lawmakers for support in wake of pandemic

BOSTON (WHDH) - Parents of special needs students in Massachusetts say the pandemic has made learning especially difficult this year and are seeking more support from legislators for their children.

Daniel Wiener can sing Pavarotti’s version of a Christmas classic but finds everyday tasks can be a little more difficult. The 20-year-old and his twin brother Andy are both blind and living with multiple other disabilities.

They go to school to learn life skills but at the height of the pandemic that education stopped.

“Without the consistency and a lot of missed opportunities they were denied a lot,” their dad Barry Wiener said.

Under state law, education for special needs kids ends at 22-years old. Wiener believes his sons, and others like them, should be given an extra year of services to make up for what was lost.

“They have a chance to learn different skills and become all they can be,” Wiener said. “They deserve what they missed.”

In an effort to set this idea in motion, Wiener turned to his state Rep., Ed Coppinger.

“I have a brother with Down Syndrome, so this hit very close to home for me,” Coppinger said.

He filed a bill that would extend education for a year to students negatively impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.

“My brother is over 50 years old now. He’s doing very well. He’s got great skills but I think if he missed a year of education that would set him back and he might not be in the position in life he is today,” Coppinger said.

Families of special needs kids say that’s all they are asking for a second chance at success.

“I want the best for them and anything that could help them,” said Daniel and Andy’s brother Eddie Wiener.

“These kids – I mean look at them – don’t they deserve it?” their father added.

The bill is now with the Education Committee and the next step is for them to schedule a hearing.

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