10 Tips to Help Your Special Needs Child Through Distance Learning

Schools have been closed since March, and there seems to be little hope of in person education happening in the fall.  School districts are announcing delays to the start of school.  However, school will have to start at some point and in some form.  Right now, the most -likely form appears to be remote learning.  Therefore, there is currently a huge rush to determine how to provide academic and emotional connections and instruction virtually.

While teachers are struggling with the move from face to face instruction to virtual instruction, both parents and teachers of children with special needs are looking for ways to support these kids at home.  School leaders are struggling with how to provide these services at home while still staying compliant with state and federal laws and guidelines.  Parents of children with special needs are struggling with the prospect of getting those children through school that will likely be provided only via a computer.  Parents are finding themselves placed into a role that they never imagined possible. Not only are they finding themselves homeschooling, but they are homeschooling a special needs child.

How do you homeschool a special needs child?  Where do you begin?  It is often challenging for professionals to provide these services.  What is a parent to do, now that they’ve been called upon to help and take part in the process?  What can a parent do to make this process easier for themselves, the special education teacher, and most importantly, the child?

Remote learning for special education is coming and here is what you need to do.

Establish a schedule

One of the most important things a parent or caregiver of a child with special needs can do, is to quickly establish an in-home routine.  A schedule will provide a sense of normalcy for your child during a very abnormal time and, it will help them know what to expect.

Visual schedules are extremely important.  Many children struggle with time management, and incorporating visual timers, will help the child know when an activity is ending and when another will begin.

Parents need to stay positive

This pandemic has increased the stress levels in all of us.  As difficult as it might seem, it is important for parents to try to remain upbeat and encouraging.  Make sure you are paying attention to your own attitude while you are around your child.  And, pay attention to how you are interacting with your child.  A positive attitude can make all the difference in the world!

Give breaks

A schedule is important, but so are breaks.  Make sure that you have scheduled a recess and time away from the computer throughout the day.  Adults don’t like being in front of a computer all day, and neither will your child.

Incorporate physical movement

Moving is essential for our brains and bodies.  Ensure that your child, and you, are taking breaks and moving, inside or outside, as much as possible.

Give your child a lot of praise and give it often.

The frequent changes associated with this pandemic are difficult for everyone.  Acknowledge that often.  When they are acting in a way that you want them to continue to act, encourage them.  Tell them know how well they are doing.  If you do, they will likely repeat that behavior often.

Provide incentives- a lot of them

Motivate your child to follow the schedule and complete his or her work, by offering some sort of reward when it is completed.  It doesn’t have to be big, and you don’t have to refer to it as a reward or a prize.  However, a little something to look forward to can go a very long way.

Choose your battles

I tell parents this all the time.  If getting them dressed is going to be a big problem, then let them stay in their pajamas.  Right now, we are operating under special circumstances, and flexibility is required.  Focus on the schedule and pick the most critical issues and make a stand.

Use brothers and sisters

This has made the remote therapy that I have been doing in my clinic much more tolerable for my clients.  Kids like to share experiences, so let brother and sister help and don’t discourage their participation.  Another positive, is that they are often more technologically savvy than you are!

Use nonverbal prompts and reminders

Visuals are great for reminding kids of the expectations without having to tell them what to do.  Incorporate as many nonverbal cues as possible.

Whatever happens in the fall, it will be different than what we’re used to.  So, know this, it will be difficult.  It will be different, but you’ve got this!

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Jason Spear Miller