By Sally Lopez
NEU-SPED Learning Support Specialist
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives, not just health but also our educational system. Many schools have shifted from face-to-face setting to online at-home learning. This may have become tiresome for many parents as they work-at-home as well. For some parents though, it has become a journey in rediscovering their child with special needs since they are able to see him or her perform tasks normally done in school before.
So, what should parents or siblings do in order to maximize their time at home? Here are some tips that may help families as they teach their child with special needs at home.
⁃ Be familiar with the diagnosis of the child if there is any. Find information about the diagnosis and what literature says about how children like him learn and behave. Make sure you are getting reliable and valid information.
⁃ Remember that the diagnosis does not define the child but instead gives an idea of what to expect from the child based on the indicators/characteristics of the diagnosis. This can guide you in individualizing your child’s learning.
⁃ Learn about what the child can do and what he/she can’t do. Find activities that will target what the child can’t do while still reinforcing what he/she can do. Ask the teacher handling your child about his/her status and ask what you can do to follow-up at home.
⁃ Establish a structure or routine at home. Most kids with special needs have a need for a pattern as that is how their brain works and what makes them calm. Having a certain space and time for learning sends a cue to the child of what is expected of him/ her at a certain time. You may use a visual schedule that is posted somewhere at home to serve as a reminder for your kids and other members of the family.
⁃ Have consistent rules and consequences at home that should be followed by all members of the family. Discuss with your whole household how to address behavioral concerns, and how to manage the child. Make sure that everyone is consistent, so that the child will not choose sides depending on how adults react to him/her.
⁃ Embrace teachable moments. Make learning functional and provide active participation for the child. Most kids with special needs learn through experience and movements as well as the senses that are involved. Make use of household chores to teach life skills, safety or even academics to your child.
⁃ Be patient. Understand that your child is unique and is wired differently. This means he/she may learn and do things differently. Don’t compare him/her to other kids (even with the same diagnosis) but instead be grateful of the things that he/she learns even if they are little by little.
⁃ Provide different activities for the child so that he/she will not resort to just playing with gadgets (which is very common). Talk to the whole family in order to share the responsibility of taking turns in educating and managing the child. Make sure to have a “no gadgets” day for the whole family. Remember that all children learn through modeling, so if you show the child expected behaviors, this will lead to teaching the child what to do and how to act.
⁃ Create an environment that is safe and happy for the child but not overly protecting him/her. Remember that the diagnosis does not define the child. Allow him/her to explore the environment, socialize with other children (if possible), and do no shelter too much. Just make sure that they are safe but allow them to be challenged at times especially in tasks being given to them.
⁃ Communicate and collaborate with everyone helping your child. Ask the teacher what is included in the plan for your child. What are the goals? What can you do to follow-up at home? Share your expectations but be realistic about them.
⁃ Have fun and enjoy the moment that you are teaching your child. Be good to yourself and there is nothing wrong with telling yourself that you are doing well, especially when you see your child is improving even if that’s in small changes/ increments. That’s still progress.
⁃ Ask for help and support especially from your family through prayers and parent meetings, such as the “Family Hour,” to remain guided while gaining wisdom from God’s words.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Communicating with Your Child (2019). Retrieved from cdc.gov/parents/essentials/communication/index.html.
Communicating with Disabled Children and Young Children (2012). Retrieved from haringeychildcare.proceduresonline.com/files/comm_with_disabled_chld_yp.pdf.
New Strategies in Special Education as Kids Learn From Home. Fleming, N. (2020). Retrieved from edutopia.org/article/new-strategies-special-education-kids-learn-home.