Interactive classroom makes learning easier for students with special needs

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Since birth, Ben Messlein has struggled in ways few other kids can relate.

"Some days are pretty bad, some days pretty good," said Tennessee Virtual Academy student Ben Messlein.

The 11-year-old lives with Tourette's syndrome, autism and suffers from epileptic and photosensitive seizures.

While special glasses protect his eyes, his parents work to protect him in the classroom.

"You've got kids with all kinds of things and the teacher has to know everything and honestly I'd rather have my teacher teaching not worrying about his medical needs," Ben's mom, Tammy Messlein, said.

Teachers with Shelby County Schools home-bound program visited Ben during his kindergarten year for lessons outside the traditional classroom.

Tammy later found an alternative after seeing a commercial about a public school that Ben could attend online.

The Tennessee Virtual Academy provides personalized learning for any child, regardless of special needs, through a live interactive classroom.

"We can either talk on the mic or type on the board," Ben said.

Ben attends class in his bedroom.

"Do they daydream there, do they get fidgety? Yeah, but you know what, they aren't interrupting anyone but themselves," said Tammy.

One option the family says works best for Ben is their ability to stop a live classroom, take a break if needed, and then come back to the curriculum.

"We go back and re-watch recordings a lot just because he might have missed something in the notes, we want to watch the information," Tammy said.

She also thinks the Tennessee Virtual Academy is accessible to any family.

"Some parents work at night. Some parents do home businesses, so if both people need to do it there is a way to do it," she said.

Tammy also says the online school gives Ben the flexibility to work according to his individual needs.

School administrators also provide speech and occupational therapy--a game changer for Ben and his parents.

"The thing is that they can learn and with this kind of program we have the ability to slow down. Look at it from different perspectives and help him," Tammy said.

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