ENCINO, Calif. - Since the Los Angeles Unified School District shut down schools on March 16, hundreds of thousands of parents have been forced to adapt to a new way of life. Many are now juggling the demands of childcare, work and homeschooling.

However, some parents facing even more daunting challenges…parents with children who have special needs.

Rebeca Perez used to work part-time in an office but now spends all day at home doing school work with her 11-year-old son, Hugo.


"It's a drastic change," Perez said. "We were not expecting this to happen, so drastic, but it was an emergency."

Hugo was a student at Van Nuys Middle School when it closed over coronavirus pandemic concerns in March. Perez had no choice but to transform herself into a teacher for her son.

"What can I say? It's kind of overwhelming," she said.

Perez says it's especially tough because Hugo is autistic and thrives on the strict schedule he got at school.

"The minute that I break anything...for example, if I take him to the therapist and I take him to the doctor's appointment. He already knows that we broke his agenda and he does not want to go back to school," she explained.

Since school closed, Hugo's days consist of assignments at home and video lessons with his teacher. Perez says in addition to homeschooling Hugo, she also cares for her other son, four-year-old Max.

"For him, he does realize that he’s missing his daycare. He's missing his school," she said.

Perez says Hugo doesn't understand he’s missing classes. Instead, he believes he is on vacation.

"I can speak to him about the situation and he’s like, he's listening to the facts, but he's not really comprehending or living the reality of it," said Perez.

She worries the longer Hugo goes without his school routine, the more he will retreat into his own world.

"It is definitely going to be a big challenge, because Hugo fixes his own schedule, his own activity. We have to remind him and pull him out of the way he wants to have the whole day," said Perez.

In Hugo's world, she says that means a day spent drawing and playing instead of focusing on schoolwork. Still, Perez sees a silver lining in their new normal.

"Me as a teacher, as a mom...I like it because now it's going to give me more quality of time with him," she said. Perez says it also gives her a new appreciation of just how difficult it is to be a special needs teacher.