(Tips for the parents of students with Learning Disability during Covid-19)
If you’re a parent or a caregiver whose world has flipped over by COVID-19, you’re definitely not alone. Since the time, the covid-19 wagon has begun, the parents in the house have taken over a new role – of being the co-teachers. And as students around the world have switched to remote learning, caregivers of students with disabilities are encountering marked difficulties.
As we all are going through tough times, here are a few tips for the caregivers to care for themselves as well as the child.
Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First
Parents and caregivers are struggling with a list of new stressors during the covid-19, arranging from performing risky essential work, working from home, navigating the new work-life, or taking care of the family members working from home. And it is even more of a struggle to balance everything when caring for children with disabilities who may need extreme support or face additional health risks. While your child’s education, your child’s health is very much important, your family’s safety and mental well-being—including your own—needs to come first. As much as possible, work to fit your child’s education and care into your family’s schedule in a way that feels consistent over months, not days or weeks.
Communication is the Key
Your child’s teacher is a specialist on how they behave in the learning environment, just as you are a specialist on how they behave outside of school—so don’t be scared to open up a conversation about what behaviors and patterns you will notice. Let your child’s teacher know what is working the best for the child and what isn’t in an online setup and ask for their inputs as well. Two-way communication will help in forming a partnership with the teacher and it will eventually benefit the child. Look for ways that you can stay in touch with the child’s teacher to share updates, ask doubts and also for additional support that’s needed. Reach out for help, if you need additional assistance, ask a special educator at school if they can help you with strategies or through certain material or videos.
You could ask questions like,
- I’m doing a lot that’s new for me currently—how is my child doing at school? Where is his/her progress?
- Have you seen any changes in my child’s social-emotional behaviour?
- How can I help my child engage with his/her peers remotely?
Following a Routine
Children bloom on routine—and this is even more applicable for children with certain disabilities. The routine that most students had before the pandemic is all gone, so it’s especially important that parents provide some sort of alternate routine to create cohesion. Research suggests that writing out a routine on a paper or making a chart and talking it through with your child every morning—even if it’s filled with very simple work is highly effective. It need not be a coloured, fancy routine chart —just a simple list will help provide pointers for your child to navigate their day.
Keep the 7-2 Model away
An older child’s attention span maxes out at about 20 minutes, so it’s not practical to expect any child to sit in front of a computer screen and learn for 7 consecutive hours of the day in front of the screen, especially if they have attention issues or other disabilities. Quality is more important than quantity. When the child has consecutively scheduled classes, break up the day as much as possible to reduce stress on the child as well as yourself. When you observe your child experiencing burnout, take a quick break and let him help you in a quick chore, which can be made into an activity that will redirect his/her energy and focus.
Adapt Learning to Fit the child’s needs
Learning doesn’t need to be limited to workbooks and carefully structured activities. Take a look at the concepts your child is working with and find ways to integrate them into your daily life. Inculcate basic math skills in daily chores. Practice counting while making food or while putting away the toys instead of using a worksheet. Include nature time as well to talk about how plants grow and learn about birds. Pull back on the experiences that you would create for your child outside of school normally, and look for ways to bring them into the everyday routine.
Kids know that their parent is not their teacher and that difference has to stay. These two roles coming together can cause aversion and conflict, especially since students are more likely to be direct and talk back to their parents than to their teachers. The blending of learning into daily life can be helpful here, as well—as can taking frequent breaks and taking time to cool down when either of the party becomes frustrated.
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that every parent—like every school, is facing unique challenges and struggles during the pandemic. Caregivers and parents are being asked to do a lot, and for many, assisting students with online education has presented a variety of impossible tradeoffs. Prioritizing the health and emotional well-being of children and caregivers must always come first, and you as a parent or a caregiver should never hesitate to ask for help.
In these tough times, we are all here for each other navigating through the new normal.