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Mom of son with special needs knew virtual school would be a struggle, so she created a new environment

When COVID-19 hit, she started hearing from all of her friends with kids who have special needs about how virtual learning isn't working for their children.

ATLANTA — A Decatur mom of a child who has special needs knew how much her son would struggle with virtual school before it even began. When she didn't find any good options to help him, she created one herself.

Alysa Armstrong-Gibbs wanted high school to be magical for her son. It was set to be the 15 year old's first year in high school and he was so excited to attend. 

But when COVID-19 hit, she started hearing from all of her friends with kids who have special needs about how this just isn't working for their children.

"I can't hear these stories and see these Facebook posts, and not do anything. I had to do something. And if it didn't exist, I had to go out and create it," she said. 

Armstrong-Gibbs said Kashiim, her son, does better with in person, hands on instruction. 

"We really want to give him the best experience possible for education. And he's excited about being in high school. I want him to have the high school experience. But we don't know what that's going to look like," she said. 

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When she realized COVID-19 wasn't going away for the 2020 school year, she knew she needed a space where children could come to learn in person and get the support they needed - no matter where they were academically.

"They can come and get some guidance. Access to computers, access to the internet, access to a teacher," she said. 

As an educator, she knew the type of support kids would need at all stages of development.and she wanted to be able to support them.  So she founded the AG Educational Group Learning Cafe. 

Parents can pay a drop in rate, or enroll their child consistently to get the support of educators while staying safe. 

"If we have hearing impaired students, we have on order the face masks with the clear mouth so they can lip read," she explained. "Children who have to be on the floor and are more comfortable on the floor, we are maintaining sanitation on our floor. And before they come in the door, they have to have their shoes sanitized and we have equipment to do that."

She teamed up with the non-profit Our Children's Story to make the space accessible and safe. 

A donation from Dr. Audwin Anderson of Texas Southern University is paying for all of the computers on site.

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The love and support is already there. 

"When you know what you're born to do, you just have to do it. It helps me to get my mind off of what I am dealing with to reach out and help other parents," she said.  

They'll start accepting students at the site in two weeks. You can find them on Facebook.


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