A special education teacher offers help and advice for parents of learning- disabled kids during this homeschooling period 

Boca Raton, FL – By now you’ve had a few weeks of virtual learning with your child. I hope things are getting easier and routines are starting to be established. Homeschooling has been a difficult transition for everyone, but it is especially challenging for parents of children with special needs. Children with learning disabilities often need routines to establish security, stability and predictability. Routines help children know what to expect and how to deal with the stress of a completely new learning environment.

1. Create a Daily Schedule.

Creating a schedule similar to your child’s day at school is helpful. This can be done in a chart or with visuals if the child has a difficult time reading or understanding print. Schedules help break up the day into smaller chunks, which provides a sense of accomplishment and something to look forward to. It is also important to help children learn flexibility by making small changes to the daily schedule. For example, reading first and then singing a song or coloring a page to relax before starting the next academic assignment.

2. Keep Kids Organized.

Checklists are a great way to help children feel useful and accomplished. Giving a to-do list to your child can provide independence, which allows you as a parent to complete some of your own work. Once a child completes the activities on the list, they can receive a reward. The reward should be predetermined together and be accessible immediately. For some children with attention difficulties or autism, the list should be very short; maybe one or two tasks and then they can get the reward. For example, after completing the math assignment for the day, your child can build a pillow fort. Make sure the rewards are given as soon as they earn them. This is imperative if you want your child to do the desired activity again. It is equally important to withhold rewards if your child does not complete the required activities.

3. Incorporate Academics into Daily Life.

With access to your child’s IEP (which you can request from the district), you have access to their goals, which will provide the opportunity to practice targeted skills in the environment of your home. Remember that anything can be turned into a game. Play counting games like how many pictures are in a room, how many spoons are in a drawer, how many leaves are on a branch, or hide and seek counting can reinforce early math skills. For language literacy, you can also write sight words on pieces of paper and place them around an area of the house. Have your child look for them and read them aloud as she finds them.

4. Take Advantage of Reduced Price and Free Options.

Parents can aid their struggling readers and children with learning disabilities by taking advantage of special deals

offered by companies during this time of social distancing. Examples include MindPlay.com online reading software, Prodigy Math, PBS Kids and Khan Academy, which address a range of curriculum areas, and Story Line Online.

5. Set Up Access to Fun Apps.

There are also many apps that contribute to teaching academics in a fun way. On ipads and iphones, you can set up Guided Access so that your primary and elementary age students are locked into the app. Here is how. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202612




6. Manage Behavior.

During this time, remember to be flexible and that some things are not a big deal right now. You are doing the best that you can, and staying safe and calm is a priority. If behavior is one of your concerns and you have tried everything check out https://www.getanswersnow.com/ for tips and expert advice from other parents and professionals.

7. Stay Calm and Appreciate.

A significant change in routine has occurred for everyone during this stay home order. It’s ok to be overwhelmed and to admit that all of this is too much. Try to stay calm and let go of trying to control and make everything perfect. You might find the time you are spending with your loved ones could be just what your family needed.

Maria Laing is an Elementary Special Education teacher, the 2018 Florida Atlantic University Lab School District Teacher of the Year, and MindPlay manager for the district. 

By Maria Laing