Students have been participating in virtual learning for months now, and families and educators are themselves learning what works and what does not. Parents, especially parents of students receiving special education supports, are taking on more responsibility for their child’s learning than ever before. However, the (public) school district is still responsible to provide a free and appropriate public education to your child, whether it is provided in-person, virtual, or via a hybrid of both. To ensure the best outcome possible for your child, ask the school what their expectation of you is, as well as that of your student. Compare the district’s expectations to your own and adjust if necessary.
Here are some tips to set your child and family up for success.
Identify a space in your home that will be the learning center. Be creative in your efforts to make this space just for school related learning and reading. Have all the supplies your student will need stored in this space to avoid the need to get up and look for paper, crayons, pencils etc.
Most students with PWS do best when they have a structured routine, and know what to expect and when. Create a visual schedule and post it in the learning space. For older students this can be a calendar, a planner, their printed class schedule; really, whatever works best for them. Start the day with the same routine you would if you were leaving the house. (Avoid staying in your pajamas all day as it can lead to less learning and feelings of stagnation.) Build breaks into the routine for your student (and for you!).
Students with PWS often struggle with self-regulating their emotions. When you are feeling frustrated or excited, talk with them about what your body is feeling. This will not only help your child begin to recognize and manage their emotions, it will help you remain calm and focused at the same time. Acknowledge when you need help and have someone else step in. Allow yourself to take a break, give yourself what you need to be positive, calm and present. You cannot help your child without taking care of you first…Just like when you are flying, you must put your oxygen mask on first.
Motivation…or Lack Thereof
It is hard to stay motivated and engaged in a task that you are not passionate about. For many of us that includes assisting our children through the virtual learning process. For many students that includes some (or all) of their school assignments. Find fun in as many assignments as possible. Use genuine and specific praise to keep your child motivated. For example, rather than saying “Good job,” say “You worked really hard on that problem. I’m proud of you for not giving up!” Do not take yourself too seriously. Use humor to get you through the day; be silly, laugh, have a dance party between subjects. Have fun!
Contributed by Stacy Ward