By Jackie White
Kids come in all shapes and sorts. Each one has certains strengths and challenges. Some kids may have more difficulties than others when it comes to navigating life, and for these kids, distance learning can pose unique challenges. Students with special needs or disabilities have systems setup in schools based on 504 or Individual Education Plans (IEP) that outline certain accommodations the school is providing to the student to assist in their success. These systems and accommodations can get challenging when distance learning is imposed. This guide will help you, as the parent, identify possible opportunity areas, ways to cope and how to lay the foundation for success.
Routine can be very important for some students and when the routine gets upset, so does the student. The best way to manage this is to address the physical environment and establish the daily routine before school even begins. It is important for any student to have a calm and stable learning environment.Take some time to set up the physical schooling space for your child. Involve them in setting it up as well. They may have ideas to make the space more hospitable and comfortable for them.
Idea: When my child homeschooled, he had the idea that he would like to make a friend to attend class with him. We took time for him to assemble his friend from oatmeal containers and boxes. My son was very pleased to have another student in class with him and for him, he didn’t feel so alone.
Engage your child’s teachers to set up consistent schedules and expectations for your child. Additionally, set up a schedule to allow for breaks, lunch and outside time. This will give your child the opportunity to reset and refocus.
Idea: Make up a visual schedule using First/Then parameters. For example: First complete your writing and then have a snack.
Make sure you have all the supplies your child will need for each day’s lessons. If you have to hunt around for supplies during the day, it can throw off your student’s focus. Other considerations about your student’s workspace are to control space at home for Zoom calls. Keep them in a place that has the least distractions. Also, if other students are working alongside, make sure they have a quiet place for them to continue working while the Zoom call takes place.
Idea: If your student can tolerate wearing headphones, he/she may be able to focus better if the headphones cancel outside noise while in use.
One of the main concerns may be how your child is going to access special services. This discussion needs to take place before school starts, if possible, so that you can incorporate services into your child’s schedule.
Idea: Set up a time to meet regularly with your special services teacher or teachers. Regular meetings will make sure your student is on track with his/her work.
Distance learning can be very effective for some students, but, without access or reliable connectivity to the internet, the ability to access the lessons and expertise your child may need will be significantly affected. Before school starts, check with the school to see if there are any internet service providers offering free access to those in need. Also, check your local Public Broadcast Service (PBS) to see if they are offering any local educational programming presented by your child’s school.
Idea: Check to make sure your router is up to date and if an internet booster would enhance internet service connections.
For the parent, this can be a very trying time. You do not have the same expertise as your student’s teacher, but that doesn’t mean you can't be a great supportive learning coach! Working with your student can be life enhancing but can also require patience, persistence and energy from you. Be prepared to keep your student on track. This will take some organization on your part. As well, minimize their (and your) frustrations by making it fun. Finally, be prepared for your student to take longer to complete assignments than you might have estimated. Prepare yourself for that and don’t overestimate what can get done during a day of school work.
Idea: Be purposeful to add in some fun! Choose a fun activity that you can do together outside the school work. Take a walk together, have popcorn reading time or do a craft. These moments can infuse the fun into the daily grind!
Take Time for Yourself
This may not be what you signed up for, but it’s the hand that has been dealt, so the best course of action is to do your best and take care of yourself.
Idea: To avoid burnout, find something that you can do for yourself. It’s important to keep yourself in a good place so that you can help your child in the best way you can.
Some Kids Thrive with Distance Learning
Not every kid will think distance learning is difficult. Those who suffer from anxiety or don’t like being around a lot of people can do very well with online learning. Also, with the availability of Zzoom calls, one on one teaching may be more available than ever, which can benefit many students.
Idea: The kids who thrive in this environment, may enjoy taking on other tasks like learning how to cook or learn other life skills. Add these opportunities in for your student and watch them blossom!
Distance learning may not be everyone’s first choice in schooling their child, but it’s necessary to make the best out of the situation. Choose to view this as an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your child and with your child’s teachers. Don’t forget to take time to refresh yourself as needed, refer to these guidelines and ideas, do your best and shine on!
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.