While we all know that special education is a demanding and challenging process even during a typical year, we are now witnessing how much more difficult it can be for both families and teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has changed many things about our own and our children's lives. The only thing that has not changed is, that we still believe in "tomorrow," and our children are still learning and developing!
Which Group Are You From - A Virtual Learner or An In-Person Learner?
Let's talk about virtual learning first. COVID-19 forced over 80% of children around the world to stay home. Virtual learning is the safest choice, especially for students with suppressed immune systems or those who live with elderly parents with chronic disease, and it helps decrease the virus's spread.
Virtual learning has its advantages. One advantage to virtual learning is that these students may receive intensive learning support from their parents. Another advantage of virtual learning is that the students' learning experience may be more effective and less stressful since they learn from their own home's comfort.
On the other hand, we are also aware that for parents, being around kids without alone time or breaks, while juggling your job and helping with school is challenging and quite stressful.
But don't blame yourself – what you feel is perfectly normal and is happening to us all!
American Psychological Association reported that 71% of parents, in particular, said that managing online learning was a primary source of stress! Virtual learning is difficult for teachers as well - in terms of delivering accommodations with the added stress of potentially falling behind the planned schedule, among many other factors.
If the child can attend the in-person learning model, there is a considerable advantage for social environment opportunities – which is essential for all students.
However, there are risks involved, such as increased exposure to COVID-19 and chance of infection. As we do not know when this pandemic will end or be under control, we need to be patient and continue to adapt to our education models.
The child's development or parent/teacher responsibilities have not paused, and supporting children, families, and educators of all kinds is as vital as ever!
What Does Science Say About the "New Normal" and Its Effects on Alternative Learners and Their Families?
Currently, there are over 6,500 scientific articles about special education and COVID on the internet since 2021 (yes, in only one-and-a-half-months).
One of those research articles, "Thriving in the New Normal: How COVID-19 has Affected Alternative Learners and Their Families and Implementing Effective, Creative Therapeutic Interventions," published by Sharon Saline in January 2021, offers the 5C's Model as a roadmap for teaching parents innovative and effective strategies for making different choices.
The 5C's Model is:
According to the research article, dealing with anxiety successfully relies on the three R's:
In the article, one parent reflects: "The biggest challenge for me has been keeping my kids safe and physically and mentally okay. Everybody has different needs, and it's hard to balance all of that. We are all doing what we can to keep our heads above water at the same time!"
How Do You Support YOURSELF and Your CHILDREN During COVID-19?
As a mom of three kids, I realized that I REALLY enjoy teaching my kids!
Teaching them is a way for us to create memories that will last a lifetime, and sometimes it helps relieve my stress (and yes - sometimes I feel like a hero to them!).
During the pandemic, we never stopped talking with family and friends. It helped us become more connected and stronger. We made songs, recorded video clips, even wrote old-fashioned letters to friends. Not only did we become more connected with our family, but we also kept the connection and support with their teachers (my two kids were virtual learners).
We frequently talked about the pandemic but never let the toxic stress affect us. We continued our children's education and supported them with additional online resources that they enjoyed doing.
In short, we accepted the outbreak and felt ready to live with it.
How are Conversation Skills of Children Affected During COVID-19?
A study conducted in the United Kingdom explores the social-communicative impact of the lockdown because of the pandemic with 176 parents of autistic children.
The resultant lockdown and the education system changes may have imparted unique difficulties for the children who were already experiencing communication deficits.
Many parents observed a worsening of their child's social-communication skills; however, some parents noted an improvement.
Experts have generated many great ideas and plans that support families and kids, especially those who need special education.
One of my favorite sources for this is Conversation Club Curriculum: Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For elementary-aged kids with high functioning autism and other social cognition challenges, this teacher-student book bundle helps to improve conversation skills by introducing kids to a clubhouse of characters!
The Conversation Club Curriculum was created by a group of experts - a Social Learning Coordinator, a Master of Science for Occupational Therapy, a Department Head of the Speech-Language Pathology Team, a Ph.D. in Education and Autism Spectrum Disorders, a Clinical Social Worker and an Illustrator on the spectrum.
This team offers a unique and highly motivating way of supporting children with HFA and other social cognition challenges to master these skills and succeed in conversation with their peers.
I suggest you visit the website, see the book's preview, and watch the webinar given by the authors! You (both parents and teachers) will find this bundle to be a useful tool for supporting children in terms of conversation skills during these challenging COVID-19 days!
This unique title's publishing company has two offers you should also check out: The Affiliate Program that lets you earn up to 5% commission for referrals and the Educator Discount Program for up to 40% discounts off list prices.
For more book recommendations, teaching materials, and other educational resources, as well as home supports, and up-to-date advice, keep reading AAPC Blogs!