Supporting SEND children with the back to school transition!
With partial school closures and periods of isolation, the Coronavirus outbreak has seen huge numbers of parents and carers suddenly getting to grips with the challenges of home-schooling children with neurodiverse differences such as dyslexia, autism or ADHD for the very first time.
In these difficult times, parents can feel anxious about supporting their child’s learning from home without direct input from their teacher. Some will have concerns about their child’s mental health, or the impact that the current lockdown and unpredictable periods of self-isolation will have on their progress.
Below are five top tips for parents to help them support children from home in these challenging times.
Children pick up a lot from what’s going on around them so it’s important to think about the different ways you can minimise anxiety and help your child adjust to their home learning environment as quickly as possible.
A familiar routine can be reassuring for children who struggle with change, so you might want to create a schedule, such as an hour of reading every morning, some physical activity before lunch or a nature trail in the garden on Friday afternoons. Planned activities help to give the day structure and rewards for positive behaviour or completed tasks can help to minimise negative feelings at a time when children might feel isolated from their friends and teachers.
Focus on the basics
Children with poor reading and comprehension skills can find independent online learning difficult, but there are ways to help your child progress even if you do not have the IT skills or equipment to support them in a digital environment.
Take the opportunity to go back to basics. Revisit the principles of phonics or create activities that encourage your child to ‘sound out’ words. Reinforcing children’s literacy skills is never going to be time wasted, particularly for children who are not confident readers, and could make a real difference to their progress in many subject areas.
Explore new skills
This new experience of learning from home provides a great opportunity to explore new skills and talents, so encourage your child to get involved with home-based activities they might not have tried before. Exploring arts and crafts, basic cooking or learning new IT skills with your child can be fun.
For children with SEND, it can be useful to divide larger activities, such as baking and decorating a cake, into small steps. This will help to ensure they are achievable and keep your child motivated. During school time, there isn’t always enough space in the curriculum to build on skills like memory, so you may want to consider putting some time aside for guessing games and recall activities too. A strong working memory can have a positive impact on all learning and will pay dividends once your child returns to school.
Think differently about literacy
It’s important to ensure literacy-related activities are fun for parents and children to prevent reading from feeling like a chore. Read a good book or a comic together in an unusual place, such as out in the garden or under a make-shift canopy you’ve built out of a blanket. Factual reading materials such as a children’s atlas or recipe book can help to mix things up too.
Audiobooks are another great way to learn. They can help children develop important listening skills and encourage them to engage with unusual material and vocabulary that may be above their current reading level. And take a look at online sources such as BBC Bitesize, which can offer many videos and interactive games that you can access to support your child’s literacy skills in a variety of subject areas.
Creativity is a powerful way to help children with special needs to learn new skills, so let your imagination run wild. You might want to write a script for a play together and act it out using props from around the house. You could invent a new recipe, ask your child to write the ingredients down, measure them out and cook it together, then chat about the different ways it could be improved.
Why not create a daily menu together to reinforce your child’s literacy learning and set up an imaginary lunchtime café or a tuck shop to include the opportunity for your child to practice their maths?
However you choose to support your child’s learning from home, keep fun at the heart of all activities. Incorporating some downtime is important too, as it will allow your child space to process and reflect on what they have learned.
For parents or teachers who are concerned about their child’s reading or want to know more about how they can provide better literacy support at home, make sure to get in touch with our friendly team. We also have some exciting webinars exploring how strategies to support all readers.