How Parents Can Support Kids With Special Needs in Distance Learning

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Even students without special needs can struggle with online learning. Now imagine how difficult and stressful it can be for students who do have special needs.

During the pandemic where schools have no choice but to conduct lessons online, parents play an even bigger role in their child’s education. And for parents of children with special needs, supporting their child’s online schooling is paramount. How can parents help their children learn through distance learning? And how can they do so with as minimal struggle as possible?

The following strategies can help.

1. Find supplementary lessons online

There are a plethora of online lessons that are designed to help students with special needs learn language, reading, speech, and many other skills. Some services even offer special needs-specific lessons, such as Down Syndrome social skills training, among many others. You can help your child learn more at their own pace with supplementary tools and lessons online, some of which may not be available through regular special needs school.

2. Check in periodically during video sessions

Both children and adults can have difficulty focusing during video conferences, even more so for children with special needs. There is no doubt that online lessons are just not the same as face-to-face lessons, and it can be incredibly easy to lose focus and grow tired after just a few minutes of staring at a screen.

One of the best ways to support your child’s focus is to check on them periodically during video sessions if you can’t sit next to them all throughout. Offer encouragement and nonverbal gestures that show support (a smile, thumbs-up, a pat on their shoulder). Give praise when you see them staying focused. If they start to struggle, take some time to sit with them during the lesson.

3. Consider asynchronous learning

Some children are not able to focus on online lessons for the entire time during synchronous learning. If your child truly cannot maintain focus as long as they are expected to during synchronous learning, speak to the school about asynchronous learning where they can learn on their own time with your help.

Do not force your child to sit through the entire session if you see them struggling. Doing so can do more harm than good, and it won’t really help your child learn any better.

4. Keep your child’s space organized

Children with attention disorders learn better when distractions are kept to a minimum. That said, clear your child’s workspace of clutter and things that can distract them, such as smartphones and video games. Aside from helping to maintain focus, a clear desk will also encourage productivity and reduce your child’s stress.

5. Encourage movement during breaks

During breaks from lessons, encourage your child to move around or do an activity that can help them reduce stress. Try simple exercises, dancing, playing with a fidget toy, or doodling on a piece of paper. As much as possible, get them away from their desk to reduce screen fatigue.

6. Provide clear, direct instructions one at a time

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Children who have difficulty processing information can have a hard time following instructions, especially if those instructions are given all at once. This can lead to a meltdown and completely ruin their momentum for the entire day. To combat this problem, provide clear and direct instructions one at a time so that your child can process and follow at their own pace.

7. Collaborate with the teacher about assignments

In distance learning, teachers can’t see when students are struggling with their assignments; it’s the parents that witness it. Therefore, it’s the parents’ responsibility to collaborate with the teacher when it comes to their children’s assignments. Help them understand what’s going on at home, which areas your child is struggling in, and what you think can be done to resolve it.

For instance, if your child needs individualized support, ask the teacher for one-on-one sessions or smaller breakout groups. On the other hand, if your child is struggling with the assignments provided, let the teacher know so that they can find other ways to help your child understand the lesson.

8. Talk to your child’s therapist and clinician

Aside from your child’s teachers, speak with their therapist and clinician regarding their learning needs. Determine the areas that you’re struggling with and ask them how you can find solutions at home. Remember: you’re not in this alone, and professional help is always beneficial for your child.

With these strategies, you can make distance learning easier for your child with special needs. While things are still uncertain now, making the necessary adjustments is imperative to your child’s continuous learning and development.

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