By Clara H
As most of you know, the whole world is in the middle of a pandemic, which means all schools are closed forcing students to learn from home. Hardly anybody was prepared for this situation making it a huge sudden switch in everyone's lives. For those with autism, even just the tiniest of change can be a challenge. I happen to be a student myself so I'm going to help out by sharing with you my top five ways to make online education for families who have loved ones on the spectrum just a little bit easier.
1. Take frequent breaks
Education is hard work. Be open to having often breaks. Since this situation is fresh it may require more rests than usual. For me, the newer something is, the more tired it makes me. The past few weeks I've been I have been pausing my work in between each assignment for about 45 minutes. One thing I recommend you do during this period is physical movement. The word "break" sounds like just chilling out on the sofa watching TV and that's not exactly what I mean. I'm talking about taking a break from thinking and sitting down for a long time. For the first 40 minutes, I like to dance, go on a walk, or play with my dog. After that, I need a rest from exercise but still need more time to relax my mind. So for the last five minutes, I lay on the floor or on my beanbag chairs.
2. Come up with a routine
I cannot stress enough how important it is for autistic people to have a work schedule during this time. Your loved one is probably used to being on a strict routine Monday through Friday while at school. I highly suggest coming up with a written plan so they can have that same kind of structure. You could even have them focus on the subjects in the same order as they do at school. If your child is in Middle School or High School, try using a timer to act as a bell. For instance, when the timer goes off they will know that they have five minutes to get ready for the next subject.
3. Stay connected to the school
504s and IEPs still apply even though the doors are locked to school buildings. Let instructors know if you need to make modifications to a project. Those on the spectrum might be needing them a lot considering what everyone is going through. I understand that it is harder to ask for help through the internet than it is in person because it's a slower process. Once a week I meet with my case manager over a video call so conversations move at a faster pace and feel more successful. Our talks are also at the same time making it a part of my schedule. This is something you may want to consider doing with your child.
4. Create a comfortable workspace
5. Use rewards
A great choice to motivate your loved one to work is rewarding them with something that they enjoy. You could have a bunch of small rewards, like after every question answered correctly they get a high five. Or you might use a single big reward, like if they do a good with all of their assignments they can have extra dessert and watch their favorite movie at the end of the day. Ask them what they would want, maybe they will tell you after they think about it. I reward myself with a game I like on my phone. I don't play it until all of my work is completed for that day. No one knows about it but it helps me stay on task. I also listen to music after every assignment which I do during my breaks. If multiple prizes are what it takes to get your child to learn, go for it!
I hope you found this list to be helpful. Times are pretty difficult for most of us right now affecting people in all sorts of different ways. I actually have an entire article that came out two weeks ago about what I've been thinking and the connection between the coronavirus and autism spectrum disorders. Of course, not all people on the spectrum have the same things going on in their minds and not all of the techniques that are successful for me also work for others. Stay safe and good luck!
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