Special Services Parent Newsletter
September 23, 2020
Do you need help accessing your child's remote learning schedule?
Tips and Strategies for Parents
By the Autism Team
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in unprecedented changes to the daily lives of children, families and educators. These changes may be particularly challenging for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who tend to thrive on consistency, structure, and routine. Many learners with ASD may also face challenges related to comprehension, communication, and difficulty understanding abstract language, all of which may be exacerbated during stressful times. Keeping students engaged for long periods of time during remote learning seems to be a challenge not only for students with autism, but for all children. Below is a list of support strategies designed to help parents and educators keep kids focused, interested and balanced while learning from home.
Setting Up for Success
- Make a space
- Create a special, personalized corner of a room dedicated to learning, creating, and reading. Use a movable box or crate if space is precious. Let your child help prepare the space for school, even if that just means putting a decorated pencil box next to the device they'll be using. Getting the space ready will help them get ready to learn.
- Set a Routine
- Younger children need more structure, so make sure to let them know what to expect. You can create a visual schedule they can follow. Older kids can use a calendar, planner, chalkboard, or digital organizer to keep track of what's happening each day.
- Have them follow a routine as if they're going to school (getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.) instead of lying in bed in their pajamas, which could lead to less learning.
- Breaks are really important, especially for kids with learning and attention issues. Incorporate physical activity breaks, including fine and gross motor activities to encourage both physical and mental well-being.
- Keep Them Close
- When it's hard for your child to focus, try to keep them close. Consider setting up nonverbal or one-word cues to help get them back on track. (Sit, Look at me, or Listen)
- Depending on your circumstances, it may not be possible to keep your child in sight all the time, but it'll definitely be harder to keep them on track if they're completely unsupervised. Try to make sure you or another family member has eyeballs on them as much as possible.
- Encourage Self-Regulation
- Talk to your students or child about the connection between bodies and brains and what happens in their bodies when they feel frustrated, excited, or sad. This awareness helps kids recognize and manage their emotions. Use a picture scale to depict stages of frustration or take a break card.
- If you have other devices in your house, keep them out of your kid's workspace if possible. This can also mean shutting down phones or gaming systems and keeping devices in a designated place for the day
- Role Play or Pretend Play
- Young children feeling at loose ends might respond to some role playing. Cast your students in the role of work partner, teacher, or researcher to help them stick to a task (and let you stick to yours!).
- Though older kids won't want to play pretend, they may respond to an honest conversation about taking on more responsibility (like chores, self-regulation, etc.) because they're older and gaining maturity. You might be surprised how they rise to the challenge in response.
- Start from strengths
- Always begin with successful activities.
- Incorporate activities that your students or child are good at mixed with activities you might be teaching for the first time
- Deliver positive reinforcement as often as you can. Reinforce for sitting, trying, following through, finishing, and even just staying with you.
- Presenting is everything
- How you present an activity makes a huge difference in how students feel about it. For young students, whenever you can, frame tasks as games to make them more fun. Tips for home might include: Need to sort the laundry? Challenge your child to a throwing contest of tossing clothes into the right pile. Or, let them use pieces of cereal/treats/fruit as a manipulative for math problems and eat them when they've finished a problem.
- Sometimes tweens and teens seem to have a "bad attitude" that's really masking insecurity, boredom, or anxiety. They're often hoping we'll help them through it, even when it seems just the opposite. Staying calm, not taking things personally, and maintaining a sense of humor can go a long way.
Be Patient and Realistic
- Start small.
- Remember remote learning is a new adventure for all of us.
- Start with a strategy that has been used with success in the past or find a support strategy to address an issue that is creating the most immediate stress.
Collaboration is Key
- Collaboration between home and school is key.
- Involve teachers, parents, the student, if age appropriate, your specialist and related service providers for help finding strategies to promote student success during remote learning.