In view of the continuing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, several schools and education centres have turned to online sources of information. Online learning or HBL (Home-Based Learning) can be challenging for students with autism (ASD). In addition to the absence of a physical learning environment (e.g. a classroom or therapy room), as well as the absence of consistent structure (e.g. the physical presence of a teacher, timetable, bells, textbooks/printed materials), some skills, such as social skills, are harder to achieve online than in a classroom. For children with ASD, this challenge is compounded by compliance issues or other behaviour challenges.
At Autism Partnership, we constantly innovate and adapt to maximize our students’ learning. Since early intervention is especially important with younger children, every effort should be made to ensure that they are always learning, even if lessons are held online.
Below are some tips from our Site Director, Ms Sherrianne Cheah (MSc ABA), on how to make online learning successful for your young child.
Tips on how to make online learning successful for your young child:
Teach your child how to use the computer and software involved
Based upon your child’s abilities and independence, the first step before taking an online lesson is to make sure that you have taught them the basics of how to use the technology involved. Teaching children how to use technology smoothen the online learning process. To do this, paste stickers on the computer screen to help your child identify the buttons involved. Repetition and practice will enable him or her to be more familiar with the process. Provide prompts along the way whenever he or she forgets a step. You should also be available during the online learning session to provide technical support and to assist them if required.
Minimize distraction in the environment
In order to be successful in online learning, students must be self-disciplined and self-motivated. The common challenge that online learners face is being distracted by activities at home. Therefore, we have to identify these distractions and remove them. Young learners, like your child, may distract themselves with their toys, electronics, or other preferred activities during the lesson. But those distractions can also act as a reward if your child gets through the lesson with minimal distractions. Through practice, they will learn to increase their self-control from these distractions they encounter in their environment.
Develop the habit of following a timetable or schedule at home
Another way to minimize distractions at home is to create a schedule that is well-balanced with learning, leisure, and other daily activities. As previously suggested, we can arrange favored activities as rewards after online lessons or tasks. You can also increase your child's willingness to follow the schedule by allowing them to participate in the creation of their own timetable. Gradually, with alarm reminders, your child can be taught to follow the timetable independently.
Simulate scenarios with common technical issues that may occur during the online session
Problems can upset your child when he or she lacks the appropriate problem-solving skills, so we need to anticipate them beforehand, and teach them the appropriate response beforehand.
This process may involve testing various features on the device or software, getting help from you, the instructor or the caregiver, and going back to the instructions that have been missed while problems occurred.
It may be necessary to gradually increase your child’s comfort level with technical issues by creating simulated scenarios. This will teach them to remain calm when problems occur. It is also possible to use situations that occurred in the past as learning opportunities.
Ensure the child has the necessary prerequisite skills
Before starting an online lesson, ensure that your child can maintain sustained attention and compliance for a long duration. They can practice these skills during their physical sessions and as part of parent training.
The use of online learning has become an integral part of learning for students around the world, which is why it’s crucial to prepare our children to become proficient in working with their own devices. This will ensure that learning continues to be effective.