Making progress during the pandemic? Doing well academically and socially in distance learning? Is that possible for special needs children? YES! It is.
My special needs son has been in a full remote class since March 2020. Like many families, we were off to a very rocky start. I doubted that my son will make progress in this type of learning environment. I worried that he may regress. Well, I was happily proven wrong. My son is now on the honor roll. Let me share with you about how to help your child succeed in online learning.
What should I expect?
You must be a super parent to raise a special needs child. No you don't. Most parents of special needs children, just like parents of neurotypical children, struggle aplenty. We know that schooling is not rainbow, butterflies and unicorns. So come with realistic expectations of your children and their abilities. You know what he or she can accomplish within reasonable means. (#distancelearning #remotelearning #specialneeds)
“schooling is not rainbow, butterflies and unicorns.”
So have realistic expectations:
1. No, this year is not a "wash".
The quantity and quality of subject content that your child can learn through distance learning is substantial. Do not treat distance learning as subpar to the in-person modality. Do not dismiss your child's ability to adapt and learn.
2. No, the teacher can't response to your child's every need.
Teachers are stretched thin these days. So do not be surprised if they can not tailor every aspect of the class to your child's needs. Yes, the "I" in IEP means that the instruction and curriculum should be individualized. But that does not mean the teacher will custom make a class just for your child, nor would that be beneficial.
3. Yes, your child has to be(come) an independent learner.
Independence, that is another big "I" word that comes up a lot in evaluating children's ability to learn. Simply by being in a hybrid or full remote class, your child has taken on that extra responsibility to monitor his or her school day. There are no teachers peeking over your son's shoulders to make sure he has copied down his homework. There are no aides reminding your daughter to grab her instrument and hustling her to the music class. There are no speech therapists in the hallway, prompting your child to make eye contact and greet their classmates. Your child needs to earn that "I" badge as quickly as possible.
4. Yes, you can and should teach your child.
You are able to teach your child, no matter what grade he or she may be in. There are many ways you can supplement and enrich your child's education at home.
You are your child's teacher. Teaching is part of parenting.
Imparting knowledge to your child is not an ability that is exclusive to the teacher or the school. It is part of your responsibility as a parent as well. And no, printing out worksheets does not count. (#learnathome)
What can I do?
So you are like me. Not a tiger mom. Not a winner of the "Career Woman of the Year" or the "Goddess of Domestic Bliss" award. You are a regular human being with limited time and resources. So here are my 3 tips that you can follow right now to improve your child's success in distance learning. If you want to learn more about how I implement these steps at home, please watch the YouTube video below.
1. Learn the tech.
There is a quote by George Couros about good teachers + technology = greatness. I believe the same about parents. At the minimum, you need to become familiar with the educational websites and apps that your child regularly use, so you can be your child's personal Geek Squad. It may surprise people to see children who grew up in this digital age stumble when it comes to online applications. Don't be. Special needs children are easily confounded by the
razzle dazzle visual display of many of these apps, which makes it difficult for them to pinpoint the major functions they need to access. Beyond the familiarity with the apps used by your child in school, you should also explore other educational technology as well. There are many affordable, sometimes free, resources out there. No one ever said #edtech is for teachers only.
2. Train for independence.
Here is that big "I" word again. The misconception about independence is that it is a singular ability. It is not. It is a skill set that consists of multiple, interlinked executive functions.
“Train your child to become the CEO of his or her brain.”
What are executive functions? They are parts of the brain that plan and carry out our actions. They involve functions such as memory, attention, problem-solving skills, self-reflection, and many more. Different departments of the brain have to work together. And you need to train your child to become the CEO of his or her brain. It is a process that may not complete till early adulthood or later, especially if your child has intellectual delays. Look at the chart below, you can see that skill development come in stages. Depending on the age of your child, you should be focusing on different skills as parts of the brain mature. (#executivefunctions)
3. Work smarter.
Don't run away. Yes I said "work". But that doesn't mean it is boring or time exhausting. For example, find a biography book on Benjamin Franklin and use it as leisure reading when your child is studying the American Revolution in social studies. Two birds with one stone.
Integrate the subjects. Learn and do more without burnout.
Or make a clay vase and decorate it with hieroglyphics, and use it as a project for art and history class. One project, two happy teachers. Or find a calming yoga video and use it for PE, while Mommy enjoys some quiet time. Again, best of both worlds. There are many ways to enrich the learning environment at home without spending extra time.
Subscribe to my Youtube Channel for the latest video to see how we do distance learning at home: