For the first few weeks of the school year, Leslie Esterly struggled to connect with Levi Wilson.

With the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, the Reading School District began classes this fall virtually. That meant Esterly, who teaches students with multiple disabilities at Lauer’s Park Elementary School, was introduced to the 6-year-old kindergartner online.

“He never met me before the screen,” Esterly said.

That can make connecting with any student difficult. It made connecting with Levi — who is nonverbal due to Leigh Syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that leads to progressive loss of mental and movement abilities — nearly impossible.

Esterly said Levi wasn’t responsive to virtual lessons and wouldn’t interact with the stranger talking to him through his computer. And Esterly couldn’t provide the

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