At Home Learning for Children with Special Needs During COVID19

I have been blessed to attend many, many trainings through UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest in NC both as a parent and as a professional.  

Lucas has autism.  He also has ADHD, which for everyday purposes impedes him more than the autism at times.  He breaks things, elopes, and throws things because he is impulsive (ADHD). At the same time, he needs a great deal of structure (both physical and direct hand-over-hand support and observation) to complete tasks (Autism).  We use a variety of medication and behavioral strategies to help with ADHD, and we use many sensory and organization/structuring of our home to get him to complete work and stay on task.

Here are some things that help Lucas:

Visual Schedule

Lucas does well with a 3 part schedule.  He gets distracted by it (perseverates on it, gets fixated) I keep it on the fridge (gotta love velcro!).  That little envelope contains tiny cue cards I made.  If he gets off track, I can hand him one....he takes it to the schedule and reads what he is supposed to be doing.  Knowing what's next reduces his anxiety, but he can only handle a part of his day at the time.  He can put the little cue card in that envelope.

More information on different types of visual schedules can be found here.

The cue card says "check your schedule" and it has a tiny picture of the actual schedule to cue him.  It's not something to buy, I made it.

We have his school day designed around what we can do and we are letting go of what we cannot do.  I have 3 other children and a we do the best version of what we can and that is ok for now!

We have a station set up for either "Partner Work" or "Independent Work" depending on what we are doing.  So far, I have not gotten him to safely do "Independent Work" at home.  He wanders away and doesn't stay at the table.  So, for now, we do "Partner Work" on the schedule.  This means I have to: 1) stand right beside him, 2) control the materials (glue, papers, pencil) so he doesn't destroy them, 3) use hand over hand to keep him on task, 4) have the videos and materials ready to go (which means I have to prewatch them and print what we need....cut out the pieces....and have glue and other things

This is what we do each morning:
1) We watch his "Circle Time Videos"- this took his teacher sending us links to all of the videos they use and I sat and recorded them on a private youtube page (so I wouldn't violate copyright laws) to get them in one segment (it's about 25 minutes) took me a couple of hours to sift through, watch all of these, and edit it/save it to the private page.  There is a second set of "optional videos" that I put together.  (I had to move the visual schedule because he got "stuck" on reciting the schedule instead of watching the videos)

2) We do our videos and assignments from teachers. His amazing teachers have send video instruction for every single task.  Again, I have to be right there or he will eat the glue, destroy the pages, tear things up, or leave the table.  I'm running out of glue and paper and ink quickly.

I have to visually adjust the pages so he isn't covering up parts of the page.

3) I have created other physically structured tasks (to prevent throwing and increase understanding of start to finish) to keep him "busy".  We use a "finished box" and work left to right.  He is handed each task directly from me because we haven't been able to do any of this independently....yet.

4) We also watch "virtual Mommy" and do activities from that.  I created a private youtube account for this purpose so that I don't violate copyright laws if I'm reading stories for personal use, either for my own children or my students.  One of the most fascinating thing I've learned and witnessed at home and working with students in teletherapy is that some of my students (especially those on the autism spectrum) are significantly more engaged.  They participate with Virtual Mrs. Elizabeth and Virtual Mommy much more than the do with me in person. I hope this can serve as a bridge in the future....that the state and governing agencies for SLPs will consider teletherapy as an ongoing option for at least part of some of our treatment.

There is scholarly research to support this observation.

Computer- and Robot-Assisted Therapies to Aid Social and Intellectual Functioning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Skilled intervention through teletherapy takes sincere effort, animation, "outside the box" creativity, and training for the SLP....but it can be done and it can be incredibly effective.

For more information on the ideas and resources at UNC, check out these:

Parent Resources and Education at TEACCH
Online Webinars from TEACCH

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