Remote learning, hybrid learning, distance learning; as we’re quickly learning the new vocabulary for various learning models that we are navigating this year, mastering the new challenges takes a little longer, particularly, for kids with organizational and attention challenges. Children with ADHD and other attention and organizational problems generally do better with frequent one on one contact with their teachers. This year, perhaps more than ever, it’ll be important for us as parents to collaborate with the school and try to help our kids’ stay organized and engaged to make sure that they do not fall through the cracks of remote learning. While all of us are dealing with somewhat unique situations, below are some suggestions that have helped students and parents as we resume some form on online learning:
1) Establish and maintain routines and schedules – going to sleep at the same time, having regular meals and scheduling time for physical and social activities helps create predictable routines that are easier to maintain and stick to. While many kids have been off schedule over the extended summer breaks, getting back to at least some form of routine makes them feel more like the new normal and less like the crisis learning situation we all lived through in the spring. It helps reduce uncertainty and makes it easier to focus on the daily tasks that still need to be completed. To stick with the school schedule, make sure it is available in writing, all of it in one place and easily accessible. For many kids it means printing it out and placing it on the wall above the desk.
2) Have a designated work area – while this is always important for successful completion of homework, it is particularly crucial when both homework and schoolwork are going to be done at home. Helping your child regularly clear the desk and organize the belongings so that only the necessary materials are available will help minimize distractions and keep them on task throughout the day.
3) Use organizational aids – some teachers will require them and will check to make sure they are being used. Whether required by school or not, they can make keeping track of school work much easier. Help your child keep his or her binders organized, with clearly labeled sections. Desktop organizers with labels for various subjects and stages (e.g. to be completed, to be scanned, submitted, etc.) can also be helpful. Using a planner (either online or a paper one) to keep track of all assignments. Have them check off or highlight the completed assignments.
4) Build in breaks – with more than ever time spent in front of the screen, highly active kids will have a particularly hard time staying focused and seated. For any child, the amount of time they can stay seated and focused is limited. Try to build in activity breaks into their daily routine (many kids already have them as part of their 504 or other accommodation plan). Remind them to get up between classes, stretch, do jumping jacks, or even run up and down the stairs so that they can later focus their attention on the work.
5) Collaborate with the teachers - if your child has an IEP, 504 plan or another accommodation plan, he or she is still entitled to accommodations even if learning has gone remote. Of course, some adjustments to their accommodations may be necessary. Check in with the school as early in the year as possible to see how the accommodations will be implemented. For instance, the extended time on tests/assignments may look different when tests and assignments are done remotely. Some teachers will administer timed tests through Zoom and may provide the extra time that way. Other assignments or tests may not be given in real time and will require some adjustments. Talk to the teacher to see if modifying /abridging assignments rather than extending time may be more appropriate during distance learning. If that is not feasible, perhaps breaking the assignments into more manageable units will allow your child to complete them successfully.
6) Check their work – as much as we want to foster independence, particularly in our older children, checking to make sure that all assignments are completed and turned in will be very important this year. Something as simple as forgetting to attach a file may result in missed homework. Have your child go through each assignment with you to check that everything is done and submitted on time. You can also request regular check-ins with the teachers to inform you of any incomplete/missing assignments.
7) Stay in close touch with the teacher – without maintaining close communication with the school, it is very easy to overlook not only missed homework but sometimes even missed school attendance. Hopefully, your child’s school takes virtual attendance as seriously as in-person one. If not, consider touching base with the child’s teachers as early in the year as possible. Request regular and timely updates if any classes are missed so that you can make sure that your child’s learning continues without interruptions.
8) Give your kid a break – try to keep in mind that whatever learning model we’re using this year is completely new and overwhelming to even most conscientious children. If you realize that your kid did not turn in an assignment or missed a virtual class, try to brainstorm with them the best way to stay on schedule and contact the teachers to make sure they provide the support and reminders on their end. Do expect things not to go smoothly all the time, think of it as a learning process for everyone involved.
9) Perhaps most importantly, give yourself a break – most of us are not super parents, we’re just all trying to make it through an incredibly difficult year. We are busy and often overwhelmed; we have other responsibilities. Mistakes happen, frustrating moments are going to be inevitable. Reach out to your friends who are dealing with online schooling when you need the support. You’re not alone, it is a challenge for all of us. We’ll get through it.