Homeschooling In a Pandemic


*Recommended Resources:

Helping your ASD child cope with COVID

Strategies for supporting learning at home

Homeschooling special needs children

Mastering Homeschooling

Podcast Episode: "Take Off the Cape"

During this global pandemic, schools have been as impacted as everyone else when it comes to figuring out a New Normal. 

The most recent stats indicate that globally, there are 1.2 billion children learning outside of the classroom due to school closures (source: We Forum) . E-learning has increased dramatically, with parents and caregivers now finding themselves thrust into the role of "Home Education Assistant".  

I have multiple clients who are learning at home this year, and both the parents and the children are struggling to adjust to this unanticipated change. 

For the children, it may be hard to understand why they aren't at school, why the regular routine has been so disrupted, and why they have to sit and learn at a computer all of a sudden.

For the parents, this is an added stressor during an already challenging year, it is hard to navigate a school at home schedule while also working from home (or returning to work on-site), and for parents of ASD children there are added unique challenges to help the child benefit from online learning.

Very few of the clients I serve are able to sit and learn through a device/computer screen for an entire school day. That just isn't happening. So what we are doing instead is helping the caregivers in the home learn how best to support their child's school day with this new format. Especially since none of us really know for sure when schools will be "back to normal".

Below are some tips I share with my client families, I hope they are helpful for you and your children:

  • Tip #1 is THE MOST important tip: Talk to your treatment team. By "treatment team", I mean the ABA team/case BCBA, Speech Therapist, Teacher, Counselor, etc. The best person to ask about your child's learning is a professional who already knows and works with your child. Seriously, I have had so many meetings this year with client teachers, and the teachers were all so understanding, accommodating, and willing to work together, because this year is hard for all of us. You will have no idea how much the online school day can be modified until you ask.

  • A daily schedule will be your BFF. It will be nearly impossible to adjust to the demands of school at home without a consistent schedule in place. Create a schedule based on when your child needs to log-on/be active in class vs. when they can work on assignments off-screen/off-camera. Be sure to include breaks (Pleeeeeease don't expect your child to sit at a computer screen all day with 0 breaks. That won't end well), meal times, reinforcement time/play, and calming or sensory activities as needed. Just like the rest of us, your child is probably highly stressed from the challenges of 2020. Though they may be unable to communicate that, just depending on ability level.

  • Seek help if you are physically unable to supervise your child's online learning. I have some client families where both parents are working from home right now. It is tough, but they are able to adjust their day so at least one parent is always monitoring the child's learning. I have other client families where this is not at all possible. Every household is different. Consider having a neighbor, grandparent, older sibling, or family friend monitor your child during the school day. For some families, "monitoring" may be all that is needed. For other families, see the next tip.....

  • DO understand that for some children, sitting at a laptop and attending for more than a few seconds at a time will not be possible. It won't. You are not a bad parent if this is the case. You have not failed, and you should not beat yourself up. This simply means your child will need a high level of support to benefit from schooling at home. I have some clients in this scenario, and it does mean that an adult must sit with the child and help them participate in online school. But guess what? For these types of kids, a 6- hour school day is not the goal. A 4- hour school day isn't even the goal. We work on helping the child participate as much as possible, and then we take breaks. Then we try some more. Then we take breaks....get the picture? Which leads me to my last tip....

  • Let's get real. And I mean, really real. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Families are struggling mentally, emotionally, financially, etc. Your child with ASD may not understand what is going on, and why all of a sudden you are acting like a teacher. Stress levels, anxiety, and depression, are sky-high for many people. You have to assess your capacity as a parent to do school at home. It truly is not for everyone. And that's OK! Please re-read tip #1. Talk to the school. Talk to your child's teacher. Explain your situation, and discuss the barriers to teaching your child at home. See what strategies or modifications the school can make. You might be surprised how many options you have that you just don't know about. You are not Superman or Superwoman, and are under no requirement to be perfect. Do the best you can, in the surreal circumstances we all find ourselves in right now. Best of luck to you!

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