By now many of you have found your new normal as you navigate through this unusual and unprecedented time. Among the many life changes that have had to be made across the country, who would have thought that homeschooling would be one of them? All parents of school-age children (K-12) face the task of teaching to their “student’s” own unique abilities and stamina for learning. Parents of children on the autism spectrum face an additional set of challenges that make homeschooling incredibly overwhelming and difficult.
So before we dive into some helpful suggestions and strategies, please just take a deep breath and accept that you may just not be able to do it all. Celebrate each daily accomplishment no matter how small.
After surveying Autism Resource Specialists across the state and chatting with parents who are knee-deep in trying to navigate remote learning, we have listed below four common questions that have risen to the top:
I have concerns about the amount of work my child is expected to finish. How do I communicate this to the teacher?
- Be honest and let the teacher know where and how you are struggling with the workload. Let them know how much of the work needs re-teaching or demands a lot of assistance.
- Ask the teacher how much communication they want/need from you. It should not be less than once a week unless this is decided upon mutually. Even a quick check-in to say that all is going well would be appropriate.
- Demonstrate or describe what the student is working on, even if it differs from what the teacher provided. Sending pictures or videos may be enough. Verify with the teacher that this meets their requirement.
- If you are in a school district where you have been told that your child’s day is currently being modified so therefore the child’s IEP is being modified, ask how this will be accomplished and what the school will provide as support. (Be sure to get this confirmed in an email or document.)
- Schedule a time and day for a follow-up after each contact.
- Ask teachers what they consider a reasonable amount of time to complete or to spend on assignments. Then aim to have your child work for that long. If all of the work cannot be completed, make a note of how long they worked and turn in what has been done.
- If your child is regularly not completing tasks despite working the set amount of time, reach out to the team to see about either adding modified assignments to the IEP or adjusting how modified assignments are being implemented.
How do you keep “data?” What kind of data is important for making decisions when school is back in session?
- Take pictures/video of work and email or use something like the ClassDojo app to provide work samples to the teacher. A video of your child reading, for example, will provide progress updates for the teacher.
- Not all work must be written to count as a completed assignment. A short narrative of “we practiced counting to 20” can also work if appropriate for the child.
- Document the time spent on any given assignment.
- See websites, such as We Are Teachers, for data collection examples.
- Using a spiral notebook or notepad to collect data is fine as well. You will want to include the date you reached out to the teacher (or school specialist), name of who you reached out to, date they returned your call or email, topic/issue, result or decision, and how much time was spent in conversation.
- If you have an IEP meeting scheduled during this time, just do the best you can with the data that exists. If it is an Annual Review, just remember that when school resumes, in whatever format it does, there is always the opportunity to have an addendum meeting to make changes.
What exactly does pass/fail mean to next school year?
- Ask EC teachers how they will measure progress or regression while your child is accessing Virtual schooling.
- Ask how reading progress will be monitored.
- Ask what the requirement is for your child to pass. This should take into consideration the IEP and modifications.
- Are best attempts to teach and learn considered as passing? Did the educator provide you with some helpful tools or ideas to complete the assignment? This is why it is important to keep the teacher informed of what you are doing, even if it’s nontraditional instruction.
- “Fail” would indicate that no effort was made. Make an effort!
- Refer to the NC Department of Public Instruction’s Frequently Asked Questions on End of Year Grading.
What if I do not have access to what I need?
- Contact the teacher to share what resources are needed. If the teacher cannot support the request, then contact the school principal or vice principal.
- Use the resources you have. Be creative in using life skills and the total environment for teaching. For example, baking cookies can teach fractions.
- Read to or with your child whenever possible
- Access the special education tip sheet on the Disability Rights website.
What are reasonable expectations to have of our educators as well as ourselves? When communicating with teachers, treat them with the same respect and understanding that you would expect from them. Be as understanding with them. They are at home with their kids trying to teach your kids. Goodwill toward others and a positive attitude go a long way. Proofread emails to make sure they sound kind and understanding while still sharing your concern or making your point. Remember, we are all in this together!
Our Autism Resource Specialists are available to help guide you as you navigate through this challenging time. Please contact them with specific questions.
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