“I am really worried that my autistic son will lose—or fail to maintain—skills while he’s learning at home. It’s a concern for many parents of kids with diverse learning needs, for good reason.
“My kindergartener has a hard time staying on task, especially when he is required to write, which he doesn’t like to do. My autistic son has a dedicated aide at school, and while he is doing much better at working by himself, at least at home, he needs much more assistance than a typical second-grader.” – This is what US mom Jackie Spinner, a Washington Post reporter with an autistic son shared in a recent interview with the daily newspaper.
Spinner articulates a widespread struggle, not often seen in mainstream media, that millions of parents around the world that have children with special needs are currently going through during the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s how you can make homeschooling your child easier:
Establish a routine
All kids thrive in an environment with structure and routine. This is perhaps even more important concerning children with disabilities. Suanne Nolan, a special education teacher at Harris Elementary School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said: “Most of the kids in my classroom thrive on structure. They can’t verbalise that or tell you they like it, but change is hard for them. The more you can do to follow a schedule, the better.”
Tap into teacher-approved resources
Get assistance to teach your child using online resources. Even better would be to turn to associations like Autism SA for example and get a list of all the online learning resources they recommend or endorse. Check out Autism SA on https://aut2know.co.za/ .
Make the lessons engaging
If your child struggles to keep their focus find creative ways to keep them engaged. To make it engaging, Heather Haynes Smith, an associate education professor at Trinity University in Texas, suggests inserting the teachable moments right into your child’s interests. Jackie Spinner, for example, shares how she tailors what she teaches to what her son is doing anyway. If he’s playing with trains, she’ll use a book or dry erase board to help him find words that rhyme with “train” or ask him to make up a story about trains.
Be kind to yourself
Parents with children who are not special needs are battling with stepping into the role of teachers and are every day realizing that teaching is indeed a specialised skill – so be kind to yourself, as your child’s teachers are also quite specialised. So if you feel you are not doing it well, remember that we are in the middle of a world pandemic and you are doing the best you can.