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How to Help Your Special Needs Child Adapt to Online Learning

Due to COVID-19 outbreak, we are all advised by experts and health authorities to stay at home for both our and everyone else’s safety. It may become overwhelming for those caring for a child with special needs, as they cannot physically go to their special education classrooms. These times may even have a direct impact on the child’s behavior, as their routines will be disrupted for an uncertain period of time.  Transitioning to new types of learning, new activities, and adjusting to doing school work at home, can be especially difficult for children with Autism as well as children with other special needs. They may become attached to their normal routines and may be irritated if they are disrupted. 

Create a New Routine

As you know, special needs children respond well to structure and routines. You can create a remote learning routine for your child.

  • Make sure that the routine is age-appropriate for your child.

  • It is important that your child knows what will happen next.

  • Use a timer (This is a great one because it’s visual!)

  • Create a visual schedule that is easy to follow (see below for ideas)

  • Maintaining elements of your child’s normal school day routine is a key part of reassuring them that things are ok. (Get up at the usual time, have breakfast, brush teeth)



Visual Aids

The first thing you can try out at home is to create daily visual charts that specify what you are going to tackle that day. If your child knows what is coming next, it will make a big difference, they will be calmer when transitioning from one activity to another.

Involving your child into this routine of virtual learning will help them tremendously. Including topics or items your child loves into the learning routine will help them be calm and much more interested in the educational aspect. If you have the chance, you can remotely consult your child’s special education teacher on what you can incorporate in your home routine




Independent Play

Allow your child some downtime for them to spend some time quietly and independently. Not every second has to be filled with educational materials. This essentially weighs the same importance in a child’s routine, amongst other things. Arts and crafts can also be a great way to include creativity into the homeschooling routine. Everyday items found around the house can be turned into arts and crafts projects. When they are engaged in the play, they learn and develop crucial motor and visual skills. Break the activities into small steps, demonstrate, and ask your child to explain the steps they are doing to engage them in the project.




Setting Goals

  • Set attainable goals for school day and celebrate their completion

  • Develop a modified version of your child’s typical school routine, adapt it to remote learning.

  • Use visuals and pictures or even incorporate your child’s favorite toy to this schedule.

  • Make sure the goals include both the activities for school and for fun.

  • Break assignments into smaller pieces so that your child doesn’t get overwhelmed.

  • Develop a list of movement activities you can do with your child, like going for a walk around the block.




Having a “Classroom” in the House

  • Try to distinguish between the ‘school space’ and the rest of your home so the child can metaphorically hang up their school bag and relax at the end of their day

  • This space should also have elements in it where the child can be creative, like drawing or reading nooks.

  • Get input from your child while creating your home-made classroom. They could help decorate an item on their desk or let you know where they would like to put their pencil case.

  • Getting this space ready will help them get into the mindset of learning.

  • Have a dedicated device or materials for online learning.

  • Offer alternative seating options (bouncy bands, wobble chair, exercise ball, wedge cushion, bean bag chairs, wiggle seat, teeter popper)




Sensory and Movement Needs

  • You can use simple objects like colored play dough and bubble wrap or brain-based games like Jenga if students need to release energy. 

  • Rice and beans placed inside pockets can substitute as a weighted vest or blanket to provide a sense of security 

  • Writing and drawing in shaving cream can reduce tension while boosting language development. 

  • Block distractions using prop up trifold boards (DIY out of a cardboard box), or noise cancelling headphones

  • Let your child run around outside, or put together a fun playlist of their favorite tunes and incorporate dance party breaks.

  • If fast movement breaks aren’t working, slow it down by doing wall or chair push-ups, hugs, deep breathing, squeezing hands, shoulders or legs. Find what your child enjoys as it will really help with learning and focus.

Remember, it is an unusual time and all you can do is your best!!!