How Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities are Coping with At-Home Learning

By Natalie Homan from In The Cloud Copy

In the United States, about 14% of students receive special education services. This means that around 7 million children and teens have a dedicated team of teachers who are trained to help them learn and thrive in school, despite the challenges that a disability poses to their learning.

There was a time when children with conditions like Down syndrome, autism, or a global developmental delay were considered unteachable. It’s now clearly understood that all children are capable of learning; children with learning disabilities may just need different methods and expectations to help them succeed.

Role of Schools in Disabled Education

While there is no doubt that parents are essential in helping their children thrive in school, special education teachers play a crucial role in bridging the gap between what parents can offer and what the student is truly capable of. These teachers are professionally trained to help each student in specific and often unique ways, and they can do it in a school setting with tools and equipment designed especially for these students.

Schools are required by law to address the needs of all children, so a student living with a disability might receive extra help with math, reading, or writing. The child might also be provided speech or occupational therapy to help them in everyday situations. Many students receive an individualized education plan, which goes into great detail about a child’s needs and how the school and parents will address them.

Now, with schools across the nation closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents of children with learning disabilities are tasked with managing their child’s learning, which most schools are handling almost exclusively online. Schools should be reaching out to individual children, and most are trying to continue to do so, but online interactions can only do so much, and the bulk of the burden falls on the parent or parents who are home with their children.

Teaching Children with Cognitive Disabilities at Home

Most parents in the country are stressed enough about keeping their jobs, working from home, and helping their children keep up with their schoolwork. Parents of children with disabilities experience this last burden to an even greater degree. Their child might require constant supervision, endless prompting and encouragement, and therapy that the parent is not trained to give. Kids may be more distracted at home and less likely to listen to their parents than they are to their teachers. This stress is a huge load on top of everything else parents are dealing with, and many are concerned that their child’s learning will suffer without the direct support of schools and qualified teachers and therapists.

Adapting to a New Reality

The heartbreaking truth of the matter is that despite a parent’s best efforts, the education of children with learning disabilities may suffer because of the current pandemic situation. Parents are their child’s greatest support, but a parent simply may not have the capacity to keep a job, run a home, and offer all of the educational experiences that schools normally provide. Parents may need to let assignments go undone, let their children explore through the activities they’ll willingly participate in at home, or stop fighting to make a child work when it’s clear that the strain is too much on both parent and child.

What Should Parents Do?

Selene Almazan, legal director of a nonprofit that aims to protect the rights of children with disabilities, recommends that parents keep a detailed record of what their child accomplishes while at home. They should look at what their child could do when the schools closed and keep track through assignments, videos, etc. of how they continue to perform academically. That way, when schools open again, parents and teachers will have a solid idea of what ground has been lost or gained in their child’s learning and can develop a concrete plan for moving forward.

This is a challenging and sometimes heartbreaking time for these parents. If you’re a parent in this situation, don’t beat yourself up over what you can’t do. Do your best, take it one day at a time, and love and support your child no matter how much they struggle.  When things calm down, which they will, schools will step back in to help children gain back the academic ground they may have lost. Parents, remember that your biggest responsibility is to keep your child healthy, happy, and feeling loved so that they’re ready to thrive again in school when things finally return to normal.

Check out the original story here.

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