Updated 6/23/2020 to reflect the upcoming Summer and the current impact on our children’s education.
To say that the coronavirus has impacted many, if not all, aspects of our lives would be an understatement – with our children’s education being no exception. Rachel Turniansky, director of disability and inclusion services at the Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), and SHEMESH staff, have put together a list of tips and tricks you can use to make sure your child with learning differences can still learn effectively from home.
1. Keep To A Schedule (But Remain Flexible)
It’s important to keep to a schedule as much as possible. You can even consider creating a visual schedule, using pictures found online. Use images to represent each activity, even for kids who are reading, to add interest and make it easy to reference. Set goals and celebrate accomplishments. Remain flexible in case things don’t go according to plan. Give yourself some more time for activities and be ready to put things aside even if they aren’t completed – turn it into a teachable moment.
2. Learn New Things Together
There are a lot of resources available at our fingertips, and YouTube, for example has many great tutorials for learning crafts, cooking and even Sign Language! You can even take a virtual tour of a museum. This is also a great opportunity to incorporate physical activities! Look for online yoga or other exercises that would be fun and new for your kids.
3. Read Every Day
Reading doesn’t have to only be instructional. Even if your child’s teacher has given virtual schoolwork, spend some time enjoying reading for pleasure. Reading aloud to children allows them to enjoy content that might be above their reading level as well as making it a fun bonding experience. Feel free to get creative too! Act out favorite stories or write your own version of your favorite book but with a different ending.
With Summer already here, consider reading outdoors! Take the opportunity to create a multi-sensory reading experience (while also adhering to social distancing practices). Reading outside is a great chance to get a change of scenery while also having a wonderful reading experience with your children.
4. Create A Learning Space
Consider the type of physical set up that works best for each child. Some might be better off in a space with limited distractions while others might do best with alternative seating or standing up. Get creative and try different settings to find what works. If you have multiple children, and are able, set up a space for each of your kids. Find locations that have materials readily available. If you can, pick a location with an outlet in case you need to charge a computer or other electronic devices.
5. Limit Screen Time (But Take Advantage of Online Resources)
While limiting screen time can be helpful, consider connecting with friends online and finding high quality online learning opportunities. Check out sources such as Scholastic, PBS and PJ Library for ideas. Don’t forget, many library systems also have resources available online. You can also check out homeschooling blogs for inspiration and resources.
6. Play Games (Really)
Find games that use learning skills. Look for games such as Concentration that use cards with vocabulary words to work on language as well as memory.
7. Take Breaks
Be sure to take breaks. Breaks can be used to stop growing tension, to teach children (and adults) to recognize when they are becoming upset and to provide emotional and physical space for calming down. You can take a calming break by going for a walk, drawing, deep breathing or even stretching (just to name a few). On the other hand, “alerting breaks” can be used when kids have spent too much time on the couch. In this case, try exercising as a group, having a dance party or even a relay race (if your space allows).
8. Stay Informed
Be aware of students’ rights. If schools are closed, special education and related services are not required to be provided. If schools have transitioned to remote learning, however, it is not entirely clear. School systems that continue to provide instruction to students must ensure that students with disabilities have equal access, and make sure their IEP’s are implemented to the greatest extent possible. If you need advice and support, contact Martha Goodman, Coordinator of CJE’s Maryland Special Needs Advocacy Project at firstname.lastname@example.org. SHEMESH can also be reached by calling their homeschooling support hotline at 410-843-7589.
While some restrictions have been lifted, it’s also important to keep up-to-date with current social distancing practices and procedures. Be sure to maintain these practices in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Look to community and health professionals for guidelines on how to interact safely, whether in person or virtually.
9. Be Understanding
This situation, while temporary, is indefinite. Do not underestimate the impact this can have on everyone’s mental health and wellness, from your own to those of your children. Be mindful and be aware when additional help may be needed, both educationally and emotionally.
The Associated and its network of agencies continue to actively monitor the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to ensure critical needs and services are provided and available to our community members. If you need assistance, want to help or are looking to learn more, please visit associated.org/covid19.
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