How to make online learning successful for your child?
Information provided by: Ms. Catherine (Autism Partnership Behavioral Consultant)
Some learners with ASD may find online learning more difficult because of the lack of a physical environment that is specific for learning (e.g. a classroom or therapy room) and a physical and consistent structure (e.g. the physical presence of a teacher, bells and alarms, textbooks and printed materials). Besides physical differences, the unique features of online learning also pose challenges specific to students with ASD. Below are some tips that make online learning easier for students with ASD.
1. Makes sure learner can operate the software and hardware without difficulties:
Before attending an online class, it’s necessary to teach students to use the device and specific software to make learning smooth. To reduce time spent teaching the skills and to prevent potential technical problems, we can limit what the children can operate or change by changing the settings of both the device and the software, for example, we can disable the control of some functions, highlight which buttons to use with stickers, and even operate some steps for the students during class.
2. Teaches learner what to do when they encounter problems:
Some students with ASD may not have the problem-solving skills or they may easily get upset when they encounter problems. To prevent situations like these to occur, we should predict potential problems, and teach students the solutions prior to online classes. These problem-solving skills may involve testing several functions on the device or software, asking instructor or caregiver to help, and returning to the instruction that the student has missed when problems occurred. If necessary, we may have to gradually increase their tolerance to technical issues by creating simulated scenarios to reinforce students staying calm when a problem occurs.
3. Minimises distraction in the environment
Online learning requires students self-disciplined and self-motivated. The common difficulties that online learners faced, including typical ones, are being distracted by activities at home, and it is why some would go to a study hall or go to a coffee shop to get their work done. For younger learners, we have to identify what may disrupt their attention and remove them temporarily. It could be their phones, toys or leisure books, it could be a website that they like, it could be a software on their device. We can also consider using those distracting activities as rewards for completing an online lesson without disruptions. And of course, in the long run, we need to increase their self-control from these potential distractions in the environment through practice.
4. Develops habits of following timetable at home
Another way to minimise the effect of distractions at home is to create a timetable that balances learning, leisure and other daily events. As previously suggested, we can arrange preferred activities after online classes or tasks as rewards. We can involve children to create the timetable to increase their willingness to follow the schedule. Gradually, we can teach children to follow the timetable without instructions from parents with the use of clocks and alarms.
5. Teaches etiquettes of online learning:
Just like learning in physical environment, online classes are also a social setting in which live or delayed interactions occur. Learners with ASD may not be aware of the subtle social cues and expectations from instructors and peers. They may confuse discussion boards with instant messaging applications or chatrooms in online games, and may be too casual when they talk to their instructors or classmates during an academic discussion. They may also need to learn to write emails to different people with specific format and writing style.
Online learning is becoming a major learning platform around the world, and is gaining more attention in primary and secondary education. It’s never too early to start preparing our children to acquire these independent learning skills before they are required to use them.