Special Needs Distance Learning During COVID-19


cerebral palsy child distance learning with mother

As if special needs parents don’t have enough challenges to contend with involving their child’s care, COVID-19 has added a new level of challenge to their daily lives. With the uncertainty regarding the safe reopening of schools throughout the country, parents are now coping with the daunting possibility of extended school closures and their additional roles of being teachers and therapists to their children.

For many families of special needs children who chose homeschooling before the pandemic, not much has changed. But for parents and children accustomed to a school setting, it’s a whole new world. Establishing a routine for your child’s daily educational needs is essential. We’ve researched and listed some advice and tips from parents and educators to assist you and your child as you start the new school year.

Tips for Successful Distance Learning

  • You’ll want to review your child’s IEP for any needed changes. Discuss with your child’s teacher(s) any concerns you have regarding areas where you feel your child might have regressed in the last several months. The IEP can be amended to address your concerns.
  • Examine how your child learns. Some children are visual learners, others are hands-on or auditory learners. Use this knowledge when structuring activities and lessons.
  • Make a daily and weekly schedule, but be prepared to be flexible. One helpful suggestion we found is to use pictures to help explain to your child their schedule. A visual schedule will help your child better understand when an activity is complete and a new one begins.
  • Create a calendar to keep track of virtual meeting times with educators and therapists.
  • Designate and organize a clutter-free learning space in your home that provides minimal distractions and interruptions.
  • Stick to a routine. All children thrive from structure and routine and for children with special needs this is often more of a necessity than choice. Ask your child’s teacher(s) to assist you in creating a schedule based on your child’s typical day at school.
  • Stay connected with your child’s teacher(s) via email, text, phone calls, or video conferencing. Make notes of any learning material your child may be struggling with so you can discuss possible solutions with your child’s teacher(s).
  • Connect with other parents. Talking to other special needs parents offers support and opportunities to share information and ideas.
  • Make learning fun! Learning doesn’t have to involve hours of reading or screen time. Learning can occur in the kitchen, whisking pancake batter, or counting out pepperoni slices for pizza! Read STEM Lessons in the Kitchen to find out how you can practice STEM while making a tasty dish in the kitchen. A visit to the local park, a zoo, or museum can also offer opportunities for learning. Additionally, many zoos, aquariums, and museums are now offering virtual tours online.
  • Create hands-on learning opportunities using arts and craft projects.
  • Incorporate your child’s interests into learning content. Find books, educational games and other materials that include subjects that interest your child.

While this is certainly a challenging time, it also offers you a unique opportunity for bonding with your child and a better understanding of how your child learns. Celebrate all progress, no matter how small. Your child may not remember all the course work covered, but they will remember the quality time spent with you. Make memories you’ll both cherish. We hope our tips help set up your family for a successful school year.

Do you have other tips that work for your family? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you!


Additional Resources

Tips for Homeschooling Children with Special Needs
STEM Lessons in the Kitchen
How to Make Learning Fun
Family Guide to At Home Learning
Ten Positive Behavior Support Strategies to Support Families at Home
Tips for Helping Your Child Learn at Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak
The Best Apps for Children with Cerebral Palsy in 2020

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