Online Learning

Hello everyone! Hopefully everyone is staying safe and indoors during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Due to this situation, a lot of kids around the world have had their definition of school change. For a highschooler like me, this means live video call lectures, using online platforms to submit assignments, and having every aspect of school go digital. If such a drastic change is made for someone like me, what does online learning mean for a special needs child? How has Anjali’s learning through school changed while at home? Let’s dive into these questions.

Here’s another article about the topic of online learning for special needs students. The Touro College blog analyzes the feasibility of online learning for such students. Picture credit and article link: http://blogs.onlineeducation.touro.edu/5-ways-online-learning-can-benefit-special-needs-learners/

In my previous post, titled Pandemic Precautions, I covered the educational routine that we have maintained for Anjali while she is home. However, this did not cover what activities the school has planned for Anjali during the shelter-in-place. A few weeks after I put up that post, schools in our area officially switched to online learning for the rest of the year. This prompted Anjali’s teacher to create a comprehensive lesson plan for all the students in Anjali’s class. This involves sending out multiple reading platforms and games to be completed by the child with parental help, regularly sending out video lessons, and maintaining communication with parents in order to keep track of the progress each student is making during this time period. Our school district even provided us with an iPad for Anjali’s learning during this time period! I had also mentioned briefly in my last post that we are voluntarily continuing a few of the ABA, speech, and occupational therapy activities with Anjali, such as making puzzles. Anjali’s therapists have started doing weekly live calls where they conduct activities and check in with the progress of each child. Overall, we believe that both the school and therapists have done a comprehensive job when it comes to maximizing learning for Anjali, but this new routine also requires effort from our ends to make sure online-learning is sufficient for Anjali’s development.

Anjali has been using Khan Academy as a resource, since it was reccomended by her school. Such free resources can be used by parents to mantain learning of students while at home. Photo credit: https://keeplearning.khanacademy.org/

Clearly, Anjali is benefitting from a robust online learning plan implemented by her school and therapists. While thinking about this topic, I realized most special needs children across the country may not have access to such amenities, as I have explained in prior posts such as State Services. What can a parent of a special needs child in that position do? Clearly maintaining an educational routine during this time period is important for all special needs children, since not having any learning for the remaining 3 months of the school year would prove to be disastrous for overall development of any special needs child. In my opinion, the only route a parent can take to maintain learning for their special needs child is setting up their own learning schedule for the child, if the ones provided by school and therapists prove to be inadequate. Many free tools are available for parents when it comes to tutoring special needs children at home, such as Khan Academy and other platforms (no such platform has sponsored this post). Overall, it is clear that during the lockdown many parents with special needs children will have to put in extra effort towards maintaining study routines for their kids, and keeping up with the online-learning provided by schools and therapists. 

Little Einsteins

Hello everyone. I hope everyone is having a great holiday season! Throughout 2019 I’ve seen my mother work very hard with Anjali in order to improve her performance in school, and specifically in the subjects of Mathematics and Reading. This has resulted in Anjali scoring 99% on a mathematics diagnostic test. The journey to this accomplishment by Anjali is what I want to share through this post. Every child is different Aryan, therefore what could you possibly tell us that would help improve every special needs child? This might be a question you have regarding this post and something that I had to consider as well. It is true that Anjali’s academic journey has and will be completely different from that of any other special needs child you may know, but I believe there is an important lesson from Anjali’s experience that could help anyone else in her position. 

I’ll start from the beginning. My mother was working very hard with Anjali at home and helping her work through old arithmetic and phonics books I used to solve as a kid. Writing with a pencil was even a goal for Anjali in her school’s IEP. Therefore it is clear that a lot of effort was being put in to improve Anjali academically, but her progress eventually plateaued just like her swim lessons (make sure to check out that post). This frustrated my mother, as her effort towards this cause had stopped producing results for quite a while. Due to this, my mom decided to turn to outside help.

This is one of Anjali’s math books. This is something that we bought before Anjali started Kumon lessons.

This is when Anjali started Kumon lessons. This post is not sponsored or an endorsement for Kumon or any tutoring company. Many families with special needs children may not be able to afford such lessons, and it is absolutely not needed to pay for one. An idea that I think can be taken away from my mother switching Anjali over to Kumon is that any parent or guardian helping their special needs child learn may need to reconsider a different direction or method of teaching at some point in time. This is exactly what my mother did, and a two-person support system, one being my mother’s teaching at home and the other being of the Kumon tutor, helped Anjali elevate her learning significantly ahead of what was being taught in school. This was also the point where she scored 99% in the math diagnostic tests I was talking about earlier.

This image was linked in an excellent Great Schools article about the eligibility of your child for free tutoring , which is an alternative that should be explored rather then paying for classes when looking to improve your child’s performance in school. Source: https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/free-tutoring-no-child-left-behind/

What’s the next step? This is a question a parent tutoring their special needs child at home will have to ask after they see a large jump in progress. In the context of Anjali, the answer to that question would be continuing work with her reading skills. This brings me to a conclusion of these thoughts. With my mother’s hard work with Anjali as an example, I would like to say that every special needs child has potential not only academically, but in any activity in general. The key to helping them progress in that field is to be patient, be persistent, and find a balance between those two ideas. A change of direction or academic system, like Anjali’s switch to Kumon, may also be needed. Even after all of this, there will always be room to improve, with Anjali’s weakness in reading/writing skills as an example, but the key for academic progress with a special needs child will always involve hard work, patience, and support.