Many parents are adjusting to working from home while having their children enrolled in distance learning….
Many parents are adjusting to working from home while having their children enrolled in distance learning. It’s tough to juggle attending Zoom meetings and keeping your kids focused. For parents who have children with both special and typical needs, the balancing act is particularly difficult.
Here are six tips from Fraser mental health professionals to help parents.
Create an individualized schedule
Children with special needs and children with typical needs need structure, and they benefit from knowing what is happening next and what they need to get done.
With a typical needs child, you might create a schedule like this: eat breakfast, get ready and check distance learning.
For a special needs child, you probably need a more detailed schedule. The schedule could look more like this: eat breakfast, clean up dishes, go upstairs, put a shirt on, etc. Children with special needs also might need smaller, shorter schedules, so they aren’t overwhelmed.
Schedule time with each child
Balancing time between a child with special needs and a child with typical needs is always hard. Try to block out time to work one-on-one with each child. When you’re working with your typical needs child, have your special needs child work on something he or she enjoys and can be done independently.
Consider each child’s learning style
Children have different learning styles, so identify your child’s learning style. Some typical needs children may prefer to read directions on their own. Other children learn better when directions are read to them. Some need picture instructions to help process information.
Give children breaks
Children need breaks while studying. Build some into their schedules, but include extra breaks. If you notice your child seems tired, give him or her a break. Encourage them to move their body by dancing, going outside or playing catch. Children also focus better on preferred tasks. If your child loves reading, he or she shouldn’t need as many breaks during a reading assignment.
Create a supportive study environment
Children with special needs may have sensory sensitivities. They may need soft lighting, noise-canceling headphones or a weighted lap buddy to stay focused. Most children benefit from removing distractions like turning off the TV or removing toys from the room.
Celebrate the successes
It takes at least 21 days to form a habit. Parents should tweak their ideas over time to figure out what works best for their family.
Fraser is Minnesota’s largest provider of autism and early childhood mental health services.