How to Support Students with Autism: Virtual Learning Environment
by Neerja Anand
On 02 August, 2021
“eLearning is changing. And we will see new models, new technologies and designs emerge. So, let’s drop the “e” – or at least give it a new and wider definition.” - Quote by Elliot Masie.
The Covid - 19 pandemic-imposed lockdowns worldwide have affected children severely. With schools being shuttered and play facilities off-limits, children are among the hardest hit demographics. The switch to a "Virtual Learning Environment" has been hard for all families; especially those having children with special needs. Even though schools and centers for children with special needs are open in the United States, many parents are still not comfortable with sending their kids back to in-person schools. The past year and a half, has taught us how to support students with autism in a Virtual Learning Environment.
The parents should look at institutions that offer the materials children need to complete their schoolwork, such as a computer/laptop, headphones, internet connectivity, textbooks/workbooks, etc. The program or institutions should offer the option of attending live classroom sessions or watch recordings of those sessions anytime and anywhere. The children who need additional time to process/comprehend can benefit from recorded sessions where they can "pause and play" as often as needed to get their work done.
The institution/program should provide asynchronous lessons that can be completed at the student’s own speed and schedule, giving them time to comprehend and not feel stressed. This flexibility allows students to make their own schedules based on what works best for them. To support children with autism in a virtual learning environment, it is important to have a "child first" attitude and individualized instruction. The specific need of each unique child is considered and supported.
Research and opt for a program that respects and encourages parents to contribute/feedback. Such communication ensures success. Parents should be collaborating with the teachers on a frequent basis and make adjustments to the session as deemed suitable.
Some children on the spectrum need more help than others or need support with respect to social skills. It is imperative that the same is provided whether or not they are in a real classroom or learning virtually at home.
We hope the above tips regarding supporting kids as they navigate the world of virtual learning are of some help. Virtual learning option, or a hybrid of classroom & virtual learning, is now here to stay; and is being actively embraced by many. It’s time for all of us to get adjusted and ensure our children thrive and do well in the virtual setting.