NewsGetting Back to School


Student with autism eager to learn as he returns to in-person learning

Jordan Wright
Posted at 3:44 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 20:31:07-04

After a year of change, routine upheaval, and virtual learning, an autistic student in the Valley is bringing his hard work back to the classroom.

Jordan Wright, 20, is a student at Compadre Academy and attends the Success Academy, a life skills program for students with disabilities in the Tempe Union High School District. Jordan decided Monday would be a great day to return to school, after learning an entirely new way of learning for the last year.

On March 15, 2020, Governor Doug Ducey and State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman posted a video on YouTube announcing a statewide closure of Arizona Schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"A year ago we told Jordan that his life was changing," said Amanda Steele, Jordan's mom. "[It was] stressful, very very different."

Since Jordan is a visual learner, Steele made a social story for him to help describe why his school was closing and why he had to stay at home.

"Mom is helping me learn a new schedule, it is hard," reads Steele from Jordan's social story. "Mom said everything is okay. We have to stay inside until the coronavirus is gone."

Jordan moved to virtual learning and immediately started thriving. Steele said he had never used a computer before last year but picked it up quickly.

The mother-son duo would post regular workout videos on Facebook, and Jordan even wrote a letter to Governor Doug Ducey advocating for access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Weeks ago, Jordan told his mom that he was ready to return to school. Jordan had opted not to return with his classmates earlier in the year when classrooms were opened up to students with disabilities. He decided his first day at school would coincide with the Tempe Union High School District's plan to bring back all students on Monday, March 15, 2021. The district still offers a virtual option.

"When that bus showed up this morning he was thrilled," said Steele.

"I get to see my friends," said Jordan with excitement.

Steele said part of the excitement in returning to school was buying a new backpack and lunchbox.

Tempe Union High School District returned to in-person learning for four days a week starting Monday, with Wednesday being an online-learning day.