Remote Learning Tips for Your Child With Learning Difficulties
If you have a child with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism or other neurological diagnosis, they may have a Section 504 plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). These Federal Education Initiatives are under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which ensures students with disabilities are granted a Free and Appropriate Public Education. Typically there is a process of making a referral to school leaders about the disability, gathering information to determine eligibility and creating a school-based plan. However, these services are typically handled by their education support team and is directly related to their teams. If you find yourself struggling to help your child with ADHD get assignments done virtually, trust me you aren't alone. Technology can be a great tool but all students don't necessarily learn better this way. But it seems as if this is the primary method for learning- especially now with schools being closed due to COVID. Here are some Remote Learning Tips for Your Child With Learning Difficulties:
1. Pomodoro Technique
This time-management technique was created to increase efficiency by breaking work down into intervals-taking a 5 minute break every 25 minutes. For younger kids it may be every 20 minutes but be flexible. Set a timer to keep your kid on track and place it in their line of sight. Pay attention to when your child, or you, become irritable-It may be a tell-tale sign for a quick break. Do something that feels refreshing. During this brain break, your kid can take a stretch with Go Noodle, an online movement and mindfulness platform, draw a quick doodle, play with a sensory toy or take a quick nature break. Breaks helps us self-regulate, reset our brain and increase retention before going into overdrive. Remember that work spaces should be designated areas that provide optimal structure and minimal distractions. Overtime, you will find that your stamina for working effectively increases.
If your child is old school like me, they may prefer hard copies of materials. Print out what you can or ask for paper copies of assignments. Many school districts have required paper/pencil packets be made for parents to pick up from schools since all children don't have access to a device or Wi-Fi. Your kid may do better with materials that they can physical touch, circle or highlight because it's easier to manipulate. You will see their tracking, or their ability to follow text from left to right, will increase as well as their attention span.
3. Google Read & Write
This easy app can be downloaded on their school computer and mobile devices and it will READ TEXT ALOUD! You can even change the accent and the speed. This will reduce frustration for students who struggle to read text, students who are auditory learners and/or English Language Learners (ELL). But remember a resource is not a tool if you don't know how to use it. Take time to learn the app for yourself and then teach your child how to do so. If they're visual learners, model examples of how to do it and let them follow. Make it a game of "Simon Says" until they are able to use Read & Write independently.
Attending to multiple priorities can be frustrating during this time so scaffolding tools like Checklist, Rubrics and Venn Diagrams will help them get it done without you having to stay on them. If your kid struggles with multi-step directions, make a step-by-step picture list of how to do it so you don't have to constantly repeat yourself. You may have seen parents use these for bedtime routines but they're just as effective when helping your kid complete a writing prompt or word problem. Venn Diagrams are another favorite that can be used when reading long passages and comparing two things. Scaffolding allows kids to complete huge task by breaking them into smaller, attainable steps.
5. Schedule 1:1 Live Zoom Calls
If your kid could benefit from individualized support, contact their homeroom teacher or Special Education Teacher to set this up. Many educators have weekly Office Hours and have incorporated virtual 1:1 instruction into their working-from-home routine. Partner with your child's Teacher, School Counselor or Special Education Teacher to help you implement effective learning strategies at home. If you suspect that your child has a disability, contact an Administrator to let them know and start the Special Education process. The building may be closed but specialized learning for students with disabilities continues so be sure to advocate for your child. Tell you child's team what is working or areas of frustration. Whether school is at a building or at your house, remember that you have a team of experts ready to help you.
6. Positive Praise
This one seems like a no-brainer but it's an honorable mention. Children with disabilities often see themselves in a negative light and may feel discouraged when attempting to perform task that bring frustration. Therefore, it's essential to establish a growth mindset by giving them positive praise. You may find yourself more irritable with balancing work-from-home and home-schooling and that is absolutely normal. Be aware of your personal demeanor and self-regulate before helping your child. If you're already frustrated, it will only make your child more reactive and less likely to accomplish their task. Remind your child that they can accomplish the work and praise their effort not their result. Giving praise like, "You worked so hard" , "I'm so proud of you for using your strategies", "You were frustrated but took a moment to cool off before finishing your task. Nice work" will help your kid feel confident and increase their will to try the next time around. These simple but powerful phrases will help your child feel empowered to take on what's ahead.
Accommodations are not one size fits all and every resource above won't apply to your child. Think about how your child learns best and use the tool that they could benefit from the most. For example, if they have difficulty organizing information, scaffolding techniques will work wonders or if your child becomes fidgety, try scheduling a break every 20 minutes. Either way, limit the total work time to no more than 3 hours because they simply will burn out. Take advantage of your child's support team and know that you aren't in this alone. Now more than ever, lean on the people to help you out because no one person can do it by themselves. I've spent the last 5 years, reducing the achievement gap for students with disabilities and will help your child achieve success.
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