With the closure of regular schools due to Covid-19 and disruption in the daily schedule, it is difficult for children with special needs with autism, ADHD, dyslexia to follow their individualised plans.
Here are certain tips by Dr Puja Kapoor, Pediatric neurologist and Co-Founder of Continua Kids for parents on how to make virtual sessions interesting and effective.
1. Infrastructure at home:
The therapist/ special educators should be informed about the who would be helping in conducting the online sessions with the child. Details like how is the internet connection, what is the mode of transmission of session (mobile/ laptop etc).
What are the supportive toys, instruments through which sensory inputs would be given to the child? This practical knowledge will help the trainer to make a better customised plan for the child, which would be executed by the parent/caregiver in a much efficient way with the use of available resources. Required resources could be substituted with the available material at home, like dough for clay dough etc.
2. Structured routine:
Try to have a regular structured routine at home. Try creating a daily list of activities, if possible, follow a similar schedule as the students had at school. Structured routine interventions are always better than unorganised random interventions. The child makes up his mind for the intervention and the results are better.
3. Visual Cues:
Students with special needs respond well to visual cues, then any other. Try a schedule board (tactile or digital) with images of activities that prompt students what to do when, in a sequential manner. It is helpful in organisation of child’s school of ideas and thought process and increases the attention span.
4. Communication with the parents:
There should be a close communication between the parents and the therapist. As the therapist cannot directly see the child performing the activities, parents can inform the therapist about what and where the difficulty is in performing the task. The problem could be analysed based on the observation of the parents under the guidance of the therapist and solution could be sought after discussion.
5. Make small parts of the tasks:
The task should be broken into small chunks with plenty of breaks. As the attention span of special needs children is usually short, so the task should be dissected and commands need to be single step. Also, the task should be interspersed with breaks to regain the lost focus and the monotomy of the task.
6. Sensory Inputs:
Students with special needs may need additional sensory modifications and supports-listed in their IEPs-to help them learn and grow. Parents can use simple objects like coloured play dough and bubble wrap or brain-based board games, if students need to release energy.
Rice and beans placed inside pockets can substitute as a weighted vest or blanket to provide a sense of security, while writing and drawing in shaving cream can reduce tactile issues. Even hugs, deep breathing, or allowing a child to run around outside helps in diverting the energy and making the child calmer and increases his attention span.