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Teaching My Autistic Child from Home During Covid-19?

Teaching any student from home can pose a challenge.

Children on the autism spectrum face unique challenges, especially during the COVID-19 shutdown. Life as they knew it, has changed. But then again, who hasn’t been affected by Covid-19? For parents of an autistic child, there seems to be many more duties and responsibilities, including teaching their child from home. Here are 5 tips for parents of an autistic child:

Tip 1:  Put together a homework plan and routines

For many parents, teaching their autistic child is a huge issue. Not being a teacher trained and not knowing how to teach educational materials is a common problem. The short answer is to work with your child’s teacher/school for a better understanding of the work involved. Your child’s teacher can provide relevant assignments and methods for doing homework. The problem is that the assignments may be unclear causing the parent confusion or frustration. Or they find that their child requires breaks and is unable to complete the assignments increasing anxiety levels leading to meltdowns and creating tension between parents and children.

When using a homework plan, the teacher communicates to the parents what the child needs to lean and which tasks can be prioritized. Once the parents know the specific knowledge and skills that their child needs to learn, they can adjust to their child’s needs, lowering anxiety levels and the parent’s frustration.

Routines are essential for an autistic child. Once a parent has organized their routines, a child-friendly version can be displayed as a visual schedule. Knowing what to expect and when can reduce the child’s anxiety level. Break the day into small units and celebrate them upon their accomplishment.

Tip 2: Use your child’s unique interests

Children on the autism spectrum often focus on unique interests to calm them down. These unique interests can also help the child manage additional anxiety during the shutdown.

By incorporating the child’s interests (i.e., fish), you can help the child learn academic and social skills in various content areas. By using these interests, the child’s engagement increases and so does their learning.

If your child is showing or telling you that he is motivated, that is the time to teach a new skill. If your child isn’t motivated or you aren’t sure, here are some ways to build motivation:

  • Become part of the game or activity.
  • Make fun of yourself during the activity.
  • Try new things with your child.
  • Introduce short pauses in activities – promoting eye gazing, pointing, & vocalizations.
  • Place some items out of reach, but where your child can see them. Encourage interaction with you to get the item.

Tip 3: Use technology

Technology is critical in today’s world, so why not use it with your child? Below, is a list how technology can help your child:

Communication

A common use of technology is to help children with autism is to improve communication skills. There are hundreds of apps and built-in features on devices that can help support individuals with autism at all levels and abilities.

Visual schedules

Visual schedules are an effective tool to help your child complete tasks and work on daily living skills. For example, a visual schedule for a morning routine can help your child learn to manage time and gradually master a routine independently.

Decision-making

Individuals with autism have difficulty communicating; through the use of technology their “voices” can be heard. This fosters the self-advocacy skills that are important as they enter adulthood. Start small, instead of ordering food for your child have them use a smartphone to point to the item they want.

Motivating tool

Technological devices like smartphones and tablets can also serve as motivation. The use of a smartphone or a favorite game app can serve as a reward for positive behavior such as the completion of a task.

Video modeling

Video modeling is a method that involves teaching skills in a visual way. The video can show an individual completing a task, an assignment, or parent teaching a skill with steps included. Your child can watch these videos to learn important skills. Video modeling can help with a wide variety of skills including hygiene, jobs, and tasks.

Social networking

It can be easier for an individual with autism to socialize via social networking than through traditional methods. Making friends or communicating with others online can be a huge help plus learning skills that might translate at school, work or out in the community.

Vocational assistance

Technology can be very helpful to some young adults and adults with autism in the workplace. For example, checklists can help them stay on tasks and complete them in a successful manner. Reminders and notes about each job can be included rather than continuously asking an employer or coworker for help. Helping your them become more independent in the workplace (Autismspeaks.org).

Tip 4: Find ways to communicate with your child

Frequently, autistic children have language deficits or are non-verbal. Here are some techniques parents can utilize.

Help your child understand language:

  • Get your child’s undivided attention. Get down on his level and communicating face-to-face.
  • Use simple, short sentences. For a nonverbal child, use mostly single words that can help with understanding.
  • Allow for processing time to help a child to communicate.
  • Give your child time to respond to your language and offer support to help him follow through.
  • Adding visual support strategies, including gestures, actual objects and pictures can help your child better understand you.

Promote language development:

  • Be aware of and respond to your child’s nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes gestures, sounds, looking at things or using repetitive speech patterns. Remember, nonverbal communication builds the foundation for language.
  • Follow your child’s interests and talk about what your child is doing and experiencing. Narrating playtime and activities helps socially connect your child and teaches new vocabulary. Adding new words and building on your child’s interests keeps language skills growing.
  • Leave space to talk together. Make sure your child has a turn to communicate. It may not be easy to wait for your child to respond but be patient. Remember to respond when your child answers, this helps him learn his communication power.
  • Provide choices within everyday activities. Giving options allows your child to express preference and gives you the opportunity to model new language (Marcus Autism Center).

Tip 5: Seek help and don’t try to do everything yourself

It is never easy to homeschool children, especially if you have a special needs child.  However, it is the most important thing to remember. Homeschooling a child with autism is a huge task and it is vital that you are never alone throughout this process. Perhaps Aunt Susie might be wonderful, but she is not a good listener, so look for someone who listens and is empathetic. You need to find a knowledgeable partner that can guide you with encouragement and knowledge.  Don’t forget to search for parent groups in your community and always ask questions. You can do this!

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