Transitioning to remote learning and teletherapy can be stressful for families, including families of young children with disabilities. Your child may be wondering why their classes and therapies are being held through a computer or device and may feel anxious or confused about the changes in routine. Children need emotional support through such disruptions and support in adapting to this new way they are expected to learn.
Here are some strategies for creating a safe, calm, and positive environment:
Talk to your young children about the current crisis. Take your cues from your child about what is worrying or confusing them. Answer their questions with simple language, focusing on the things you are doing to keep your family safe. It is best to be honest, calm, and factual, but age-appropriate. Try not to overshare information. Visuals and social stories can be great ways to help your child understand what is happening and to feel reassured.
Create a schedule and a routine. This will allow your child to see what will happen next and soothe any anxiety they may feel. Routines show children the steps they will need to take to complete their schedule. Schedules and routines may also help develop new skills, such as sequencing, toilet training, self-feeding, and extended focus during playtime. Once you have set a routine in place, you may incorporate relaxing breaks into your child’s choice time or visual daily schedule. This can encourage your child to stay focused on tasks because they know a break is coming shortly after. Remember that taking your child away abruptly from an activity they enjoy may cause negative behaviors and disrupt their learning.
Create an area in your home for remote learning, however small. Most children learn best in a setting that has little to no distractions. You can experiment with lighting to help create a calm environment. For example, some children may need low lighting to feel safe. Some children may also respond well to hearing relaxing music in the background. We realize that parents are making do with the space that they have during this time, so do what works for your family. If it is difficult to reduce background noise, then noise-canceling headphones may be helpful to your child if they are available.
Create a “relaxing break area” for your child. Ideally, it should be away from their remote learning area. Let your child know when they will have a break. You can say, “We're going to have our relaxing break in five minutes.” Then, set a timer before your child goes into the break area. You can use a phone timer or the timer on another device. Timers help your child become aware of the amount of time they have left for a break, this allows them to develop closure with the activity, reducing the chances of a meltdown occurring. When you are down to two minutes, give a verbal reminder and then another, when they have one minute left. This will help your child prepare for the end of the break and a smooth transition back to remote learning.
All children and family situations are different, so use these suggestions as you see fit. Visit this link for more early childhood remote learning information from the New York City Department of Education.
Written by Sasha Bueno- INCLUDEnyc Staff Member