The switch to online learning (or switching back and forth) can present extra challenges for students with Learning Disabilities and/or Attention Challenges. Every child and every situation at home is unique, so there is no one size fits all solution. However, with careful planning and attention to what can reasonably done, parents can help their children to make the most of their remote learning situation. Parents may even find some silver linings or advantages to their situation as students develop new strengths or skills. Here are a few tips for helping your son or daughter to get more from remote learning.
Remember that if your child has an IEP or a Section 504 plan, those protections are still in place. Your child should still receive all the services that are outlined even though things may look a little different. There may be some things (such as integrating therapies into the day) that the parent could do with supervision from the school provider, or some students may need to have home visits. It may be challenging to figure out how to keep the services going. You may want to have a virtual meeting with your child's providers to discuss how to adapt your child's program. Befriend the teacher and ask for a meeting. It may also be good to arrange some kind of a weekly check in. Schools need to keep providing special education services including transition services. If you need support in working with the school, you may want to speak with a parent consultant at the Utah Parent Center at www.utahparentcenter.org or 800-468-1160
Some students may benefit from additional assistive technology. This might need to be added to the IEP or Section 504 plan. One example is if your home has a number of people working or studying and your child is sensitive to or distracted by noise, noise cancelling headsets could be considered. There are also many aps and free resources online. Children who are struggling with reading may benefit from audio books. One good resource is www.Learningally.org. Families can buy an annual membership for less than $12 per month and download unlimited audio books that are read by humans and that have highlighting so the students can follow along. The school may also be able to provide access through the IEP.
Provide organization and structure for your child. Make an attractive chart of the day's schedule and post it where your child can use it. Have the child help plan or draw a picture of the day. The child will likely take more ownership of the schedule.
Engineer the environment the best you can to meet the child's needs. If possible have an area dedicated for the child to do his work. This should include consideration of any special needs for: lighting, sound, smells, comfortable seating (consider textures), and an organized place for school supplies
Have a cut off time for screen use. Too much and too late of screen time for children (and adults) is associated with poor sleep and insomnia.
Planning to meet the child's physical needs is paramount. It's not even good to have your child sit at the computer all day. --Build exercise breaks into the day. Some children will do better if they have a run or a bike ride first thing in the day. --Keep your child hydrated and have nutritious snacks available. --Have frequent rest breaks. You may want to do chunking of assignments and have a mini reward at intervals. For example, after doing four math problems the child may be allowed to do an activity of choice for 5 minutes.
Use this time to bond with your child and to help him or her develop social skills and executive function skills. This can be part of the silver lining to this cloud. --Look your child in the eye and listen to and respect his concerns. --Use gentle questions to guide your child to be mindful of what she needs to do. For example "Thank you for helping me clean up lunch. What is on your schedule after lunch?" --Here is a good article about strengthening executive skills. https://www.additudemag.com/how-to-focus-on-school-executive-functions-distance-learning/
Make sure your child has the support needed to know how to use the technology for lessons. Make list of online resources the child can use and help him or her know how to use them. Gently coach your child until he is able to use the technology for lessons and knows how to get help from the teacher.
Watch for overwhelm. When a child, or an adult for that matter, is overwhelmed, learning does not happen. Teach the child to step back, and do some slow breathing. Give a little shoulder rub if your child likes that, or have the child walk around or do something soothing for a minute until her brain can come back online. When children are stressed, social support from you can help her to regroup and cope. These types of support can be adapted for the child's age.
Be positive and respectful. Allow your child ownership of whatever he can do on his own. Help your child savor his accomplishments. Describe in detail what he did that worked. For example, "Today you followed your schedule, and you noticed when it was time to _____" Any steps toward self management and independence deserve celebration and respect.