Caring for a Special Needs Child During the Crisis

Caring for a Special Needs Child During the Crisis

Ayden is a six year-old, bouncing, energetic kindergartner who attends a private school in Florida.  Like many families, ours is no different as we pool resources, time, patience, faith, and strength to deal with the pandemic. However, our primary focus on a daily basis is to maintain a normal, structured, healthy and safe environment for Ayden.  Ayden is a special needs child with an intellectual disability. 

Parenting, teaching a child through distant learning, and working from home have to be the strangest combination - even for those who like to multitask like me. As I reflect on the past 30 days with work from home and supervising coursework for Ayden, below are some issues, implications and effective strategies to help others homeschool with a smile.

Issues

The foundation to homeschooling resides in understanding your child’s core curriculum.  Ayden is learning more than just numbers and shapes. As parents, we’ve become the front-line educators who need “fast-track” drills in teaching everything from vowels to language arts to Algebra.  Then comes technology: Are all the homes even stocked with multiple devices (i.e., laptops or tablets) equipped with essential software capabilities?  Sadly, this is not the case in countless homes.

Homeschooling has further challenges for working parents.  As an essential worker with the capabilities to work remotely, I am balancing a full day as mom, teacher and leader.  This is not always the case for all workers.  Production workers and some front-line associates who specialize in client-care may be required to work from the physical offices of essential businesses.  Since these workers and parents cannot be at home with their children, the parental support while homeschooling is diminished. 

Implications

As communities come together to help students complete a successful school year, there are several effects of homeschooling during the pandemic.  While not a direct challenge of mine, I am aware that the manner in which parents have learned subjects such as Algebra in decades past is very different from the “modern” way.  This conundrum signals that parents must align with their students’ curriculum and texts.  In some cases, parents may need to re-learn before teaching their children.

Once technology fails, parents have to be skilled to assist the students. For Ayden, the online platform was inaccessible on day one, which created frustration for him and me.  Nationally, I’ve learned that hundreds of thousands of children were impacted with burdened technology that lacked capacity for the increased volumes.

Homeschooling while working requires focus, structure, and flexibility.  Parents are toggling between conference calls and video chats to achieve business goals.  For Ayden, class time (online) runs from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM daily, which is half of a parent’s work day in most cases.

Effective Strategies

So to create harmony, I have implemented the following:

  • Secure clear instructions, deadlines, and submission formats from teachers as these are crucial to ensuring that completed work is accepted and graded
  • Designate a separate area in the home for homeschooling versus working
  • Develop a daily schedule for homeschooling and work meetings
  • Be 100% present for homeschooling, avoid multitasking
  • Maintain student independence
  • Celebrate daily wins for students (i.e., give a high-five or enjoy a treat)
  • Breathe and care for self so you can do it all again, tomorrow

 

About the Author

Simone Arnold is a vice president of Global Network Strategy at Fiserv. She is also an alumna and contributor to the Center for Education and Information Technology Research  and the Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research at the University of Phoenix. She researches emotional intelligence, workplace diversity, and statistical procedures and applications for continuous performance development. She holds a Doctor of Management degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix.

 

 

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Simone Arnold
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