Online schooling, in spite of its convenience, can be a dull learning experience for children. Unlike in a physical setup, students struggle with consistent class participation due to a lack of engagement and connection. But for children on the autism spectrum, the shift from physical to virtual classroom is even more impactful because the latter set-up often lacks structure. This is because some students thrive better on routines and consistencies. Uncertainties and changes, in some circumstances can cause immense stress.
This can be frustrating for parents who are already confronted with a lack of educational programs created for autistic pupils. However, there are ways for you to turn things around for your virtual learner, and this article explains just how you can help your child enjoy online learning.
The most straightforward solution to virtual learning’s unstructured time is to create one for your child. Routines help lessen irregularities and unexpected situations that may stress them. In fact, they perform better when they’re working within time restrictions as they take comfort in accomplishing what was set to be done.
Start with something like starting and ending ‘school days’ at the same times every day alongside consistently scheduled breaks. You can further make it easier for your child by visualizing it with a calendar in their study room or on Google Calendar.
For children on the autism spectrum, learning how to play pretend may be a challenge. But it is also crucial in developing skills related to communicating and relating with others. Fortunately, augmented reality or AR can immerse them in learning situations by projecting digital objects onto the real world. For instance, the game Wisdom: The World of Emotions does just this while also facilitating Social-Emotional Learning. In this AR game, children encounter the emotion of anger as a character. They also learn about the non-verbal cues associated with certain emotions through mini games.
One of the challenges of switching to online schooling is creating an environment as conducive to learning as classrooms. To overcome this challenge, assign an area that will be used solely as a study room. This way your child will learn the spatial distinctions between school (work), rest, and play. Ideally, the learning area needs to be separate from pets and toys or forms of entertainment. It also needs to have the necessary tools for learning, like computers, notebooks, and books.
Making it fun, however, is just as important as putting away distractions. You and your child can color code learning materials or incorporate the theme of your child’s favorite characters or show. Like creating a schedule, designing a space for your child’s online schooling must be informed by their unique needs and preferences.
Part of making the online learning experience enjoyable is taking care of your child’s sensory needs. These can be managed with all sorts of activities, from short walks to playing with devices like fidget cubes and spinners. However, it’s crucial to note that while fidget devices may work for one pupil, they may not be as effective for another. Some thrive on wearing noise-cancelling headphones to control audio information while others benefit more from visual activities like colouring and shadow puppet play. Communicating with your child and professionals can help you find the most appropriate sensory activities.
Online schooling can never replace the rich experience of face-to-face classes. But if there’s a silver lining in this, it’s that it gives you more freedom in designing a learning setup that properly meets your child’s needs.