Liam is a curious, intelligent and social 11-year old boy. He also uses a wheelchair, due to disabilities caused by cerebral palsy.
He is non-verbal, but has learned to communicate by eye movement using a communication device. Liam needs help and assistance with the tasks of daily life, but he leads a happy existence with a loving family and his many friends.
Liam has benefited from an excellent education through an Individual Education Plan, to which he is entitled under state and federal law. His team at school includes a nurse and a para-educator, as well as speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.
But all that changed this year.
Now Liam receives no assistance, no therapy and no socialization. He is not being educated.
Like many other children in Oregon, he is expected to learn by staring at a computer screen. But this doesn’t work for Liam.
He is incapable of following the instruction in this format – he needs interaction. He needs therapy. He needs his education tailored so that he can absorb the information.
But none of that is happening.
Even worse, Liam’s medical condition makes it impossible for him to wear a mask or a face shield. Under current COVID-19 restrictions, this means he cannot associate with other people.
He cannot go to a restaurant or a store with his family. He cannot go to events with his friends. His isolation runs deep.
Not surprisingly, Liam has suffered depression and other symptoms from the isolation and lack of stimulation.
His parents have spent the past nine months tirelessly advocating for their son to get the help he needs, whether in-home or by being allowed back into his classroom.
They have sought accommodations for his medical inability to wear a mask. But after repeatedly being told his needs would be addressed, nothing has changed – in fact, things continue to get worse.
Liam is being forced to stay hidden, isolated, apart from society.
And it’s not that Liam or his family discount COVID-19 – they’ve experienced it firsthand. Their family had it early in the pandemic, Liam included.
Liam’s dad works in cardiac care at a major medical center in Portland. The family knows how to take reasonable precautions.
It is time we took a hard look at whether we’re OK with a society that locks the disabled out of experiencing life, even temporarily.
Liam has rights as a citizen, and he is entitled to special consideration and accommodation as a person with special needs. It is time we went back to following our own better instincts and the law, and gave Liam his life back.
The Freedom Foundation is proud to represent Liam and his parents as they fight to get his life back.