Parents of kids with autism are being thrust into teaching their kids without any training or assistance. Please give yourself and child some grace as you transition into this completely different style of learning.
Getting started is often the hardest part!
Below are some tips that might be helpful during this time.
1. Find Your Child’s Learning Style
Use the style of learning that best suits your child. If they are a visual learner, using videos and visual schedules can be helpful. Sit with your child to show them how to use the platform until they grasp it. If a screen is too difficult, print the assignments and do them on paper.
2. Email the Teacher
If learning from home is challenging for your child, email the teacher for ideas to make the lesson plan more user-friendly. Ask which other resources you can use to teach what the child should be learning that may better fit your child’s learning style.
3. Work With Your Child at a Set Time
Choose a set time to work with your child daily. If you have other children at home, you might work with your ASD child at a different time as your other kids. Very early morning or evening is fine as long as it fits in with your child’s natural schedule.
4. Make Lessons Fun
Your child can sense the stress you are feeling. Remember to talk lessons through. Tell stories about what you are trying to teach. Relate the subject matter to something your child loves in other contexts. Almost anything can be related back to a Disney story.
5. Use a Timer
Even adults have a hard time sitting at their desks for long periods of time. Set a timer for a reasonable amount of time and make sure the child knows what will happen after the timer goes off. This can reduce anxiety.
6. Take Lots of Breaks
Go outside, get moving in your house, drink something or eat a snack. Eyes become strained and this can cause headaches, so you need to change the focus frequently.
7. Model Habits for Your Child
If you are working from home, set up your work station like their learning area and take breaks, eat lunch together. At the end of the work day, spend family time together.
8. Designate a Work Space
If available, setting up a space designated for work alone with little distractions would be helpful. It is okay to use a shared task table as long as it is a consistent place to work daily.
9. Minimize Distractions
Distractions overwhelm the brain. This includes distractions in the work room and distractions in the room of the person you may be communicating with via computer program. If your child doesn’t like to see their own face on a video chat, ask the teacher or therapist if you can cover the camera with a post-it note. Having too many faces on the screen can be distracting.
10. Make a Schedule
If your child needs routine and structure, the schedule can be rigid. If your child responds better to a flexible schedule, ensure there is an ability to change it. Let kids cross off tasks after they are done. If the list is overwhelming, use a paper to hide the whole list and only move it down to reveal the next task once the first task is completed.
11. Make Sure Your Child is Fed and Rested
Trying to work with a child that is hungry or tired is very difficult. Incorporate snack times into your schedule.
12. Break Work Up Into Small Parts
Even if it seems silly, break tasks down into very small, do-able tasks that can be completed and checked off the list. Too much work at once is overwhelming. Also, many kids will need to be shown how to do a task the first several times until they can do it independently. If this is a physical task, it may even require hand-over-hand assistance.
13. Give Your Child Control
It may help to let your child make their own schedule. Let them pick what they want to do first or chose how they want to learn. Giving your child control gets more buy-in from the child. It will also empower and motivate your child.
14. Put a Sensory Diet in Place
Consider a weighted vest, a desk with no chair, a chair that they can bounce on, fidget toys, a tennis ball to squeeze, and frequent breaks that incorporate some kind of sensory input. This can help keep your child regulated.
15. Use YouTube
YouTube has many educational videos that are helpful. It also gives you, as the parent, a few minutes to take a break if needed. This recent TACA blog has YouTube educational channels listed, plus lots of ideas for kids activities.
16. Consider Hiring a Skype Tutor
You may be able to hire a tutor to help. Your child may be more apt to work over Skype (or other program) with someone else. A fun tutor who talks to your child at the same time each day may engage and inspire your child.
At TACA, we know this is a difficult time for parents. We are all doing our best. We will get through this and learn a little more about our children in the meantime. We will gain information about what helps them and how they learn best. More than anything, right now, our kids need our love and comfort during this time of uncertainty.