Wow! What a surreal and crazy time this has been. Throughout it all, StG has worked hard to keep quality academic and speech-language therapy support through our Resource Services program continuing via live telepractice. This has been no small feat. All of our Resource specialists are master educators, but the idea of working with our students through a screen was not something with which most of us felt comfortable or familiar. With the help of our Tech Team and much initial prep and training, we were able to adapt and pull it off. As the weeks have gone by and we are nearing the end of the school year now, the Resource specialists and I have been able to reflect about the benefits of this new approach to intervention for our school, an important one being the opportunity for a greater home-school connection with our students and parents.
Being a parent of a child who has learning challenges myself, I know firsthand how difficult it is to work with my own child at home while juggling work duties. I seem to have all the patience in the world while working with other people’s children, but when it comes to teaching my own, I realize I need to work hard at calm and steady perseverance, especially during times when I feel stressed and overwhelmed (like now!). Here are some strategies I have found to be helpful in setting a plan for at-home learning. I hope you will find these tips to be helpful for all students, but even more so for our children who need extra support to learn:
1. Set up a consistent structure and schedule to the day.
Students who find it challenging to learn experience more success through routine and consistency. Set up a visual schedule that works for your child as well as your work schedule needs. Break up activities into smaller chunks with built-in movement breaks. At the same time, give yourself permission to be flexible when needed. We all know the proverb about best laid plans!
2. Set up a consistent work station for you and your child.
Having all the materials your child will need in one location allows for that consistency. For some learners, particularly middle school students, it may be better to set up different spaces in your home for different subjects, as students are used to shifting locations at school depending on what they’re learning.
3. Use a timer to assist your child in sustaining focus to tasks.
A timer can build important independence in your child, while allowing you to take a step back from hovering and verbally reminding your child to pay attention. This empowers children to take ownership of their learning.
4. Build in time for interactive fun with your child when you can.
Board games are such a great way to build many real world cognitive and academic skills, such as attention, memory, problem solving, reading and math. Taking the time to attentively listen and engage with your child also creates a positive atmosphere that will spill over into school work times. Brain-based research reveals that we all learn and remember information best when we incorporate movement and positive emotional experiences into activities.
5. Use encouraging words and smile.
During this challenging daily grind, we often forget to encourage our children. We become so focused on the desire to just get the work done that we forget to encourage them along the way. Point out the things your child does correctly more often than you point out the mistakes.
For example, when having your child read aloud, Dr. Timothy Shanahan, premier literacy educator, advises parents to use the “Pause, Prompt, Praise (3P)” approach: If a child makes a reading mistake, allow the child time to fix it. If they don’t catch it, pause the child at the next punctuation mark, and prompt him/her to look at the word again, sound it out differently, or use the meaning and context to ask themselves if that made sense. If after a prompt, the child doesn’t say the word, provide the word and keep reading. Praise the child along the way for times they persevere through difficult words or when they make a mistake and fix it. Let your child know progress and not perfection is what we should all strive towards achieving.
6. Build in Time for Yourself.
We parents tend to put ourselves on the backburner, but especially during this time when we are running on empty, it is important to put time aside to relax and unwind.
The StG Resource specialists hope that besides targeting our students’ Student Education Plan (SEP) goals and objectives through our live Google Meet Resource and speech-language therapy sessions, we have offered parents support and guidance with strategies to use in working with children at home during this crisis. And rest assured, parents, that you are doing the best you can and we recognize that! This is new for all of us. When this is over and we reflect upon this time, I believe we will think about the steady perseverance, which is at the heart of our StG values as a community, shown by us as parents and educators-- we kept working at being more effective, flexibly trying to adapt and to do our best to help our kids grow and develop.
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- Sherri Weiser
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