Homeschooling Strategies for Your Child With Special Needs
Helping you and your child succeed with homeschooling during COVID-19.
Written by Dr. Liz Matheis
This period of time feels a little surreal to me, as I’m sure it does for you, too. As parents, this is a time where we are balancing our work and home demands. While we are trying to maintain our employee status, we are also being given the responsibility of teaching our children through their subjects.
I know when I saw the pile of work that was sent home for my children, as well as the emails and Google Classroom notifications, I was most definitely overwhelmed. I had to find some way to organize the assignments and create some sort of order for each day. For my child with special needs, understanding her academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as emotional needs, hasn’t been easy for me, and my appreciation for her teachers is that much higher and deeper.
Our teachers are not expecting our children to work for the duration of the entire school day. However, it may be taking you and your child longer than the school day to complete a few assignments. My efforts have been met with tears, falling to the ground and a fair share of yelling … on both of our ends. Now that it’s been a week, I have a few strategies to share with you that may save your sanity and help you to create realistic expectations for what a school day will look like for the next few weeks.
Take a Quick Read Through Your Child’s IEP
Although you are not a special education teacher (or maybe you are!), take a look at your child’s accommodations and get a sense of how to work within the classroom is broken down for your child. This may give you a few ideas of how information is presented. If you’re still not clear, email your child’s teacher and ask her or him how you could teach your child a concept or how to work through the assignment. You are likely going to gain a few great ideas!
Break It Down
For some of our children, having your parent become your teacher is a mixing of roles and relationships. Understandably so! Your child may push back when you present work more so than she would with her teacher.
So, let’s get you through this. Break down subjects with specific times and specific time limits each day. For example, your child’s four major subjects, regardless of age or grade, are science, social studies, math, and language arts. Based on your child’s tolerance and endurance, you may wish to:
- Each class will last 30, 45, or 60 minutes
- Decide on the time before you begin
- Set a timer
- Teach three subjects per day
- Rotate the subjects so that one subject is being “dropped” daily
- Break down tasks into parts. For example, if your child is assigned to write a paper, break it down into its parts: an introduction, paragraph one, paragraph two, paragraph three and conclusion. You may wish to work on one to two parts each day
- Work on five or 10 math problems at a time
- Take breaks in between subjects; decide the maximum amount of time that will feel relaxing but not too relaxing where re-engaging becomes too difficult. Set the timer again
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Jeff Lake Day Camp and CommuniKids are excited to announce a new special needs element to Jeff Lake’s renowned approach to summer time fun.
In addition to the full assortment of traditional camp activities (swimming, arts, sports, lake, etc.), a small co-ed bunk of pre-K and Kindergarten aged campers, who have identified speech/language and/or motor/sensory challenges, will also take part in weekly occupational therapy and speech/language therapy group activities led by members of the CommuniKids clinical team. With an appropriate and unique camper to counselor ratio, the bunk’s counselors are being hand picked to ensure that campers are guided by adults with special needs backgrounds and training.
CommuniKids’ speech and occupational therapists will be on campus 4 days a week so that, in addition to the therapeutic group activities, campers across all bunks will have the opportunity to schedule individual therapy sessions at camp during the day, rather than needing to go to an office in the afternoon or evening following a full day playing in the sun. These will be arranged in collaboration with each bunk’s counselors so that campers maximize their favorite activities yet still get the intervention they need.
It is our hope that this program will offer children who may not be quite ready for an unsupported full day of camp, the opportunity to experience the joy of summer camp at its fullest and get to know why so many New Jersey campers think of Jeff Lake as their happy place!
If you are interested in learning more about the program, please contact Sue Rynar at Jeff Lake, 973-376-1962 or Russell Kaplan at CommuniKids, 908-273-5537. We look forward to seeing you this summer!
A group of eight young children listens to their teacher in quiet anticipation as he reads aloud Froggy’s Worst Play Date. No one budges from their spot on the semicircle; the students remain silently captivated by the story, amused by the distinct voices the teacher invents for each character. The ability to sit still and focus on story time, a seemingly routine classroom occurrence, is an astonishing feat for this particular group of kids, a testimony to their teacher’s expertise.
In his 13 years teaching kids with special needs, Michael Wojcio has aquired a reputation as a miracle worker among SOMA parents and administrators alike. Wojcio teaches a multi-age class (kindergarten through second grade) at Marshall Elementary School in South Orange exclusively for children with behavioral disorders, or BD’s, which often manifests as hyperactivity, or trouble with focus and concentration.
His experience as a special education teacher fostered Wojcio’s insight that the ideal environment for kids with BD’s differs vastly from what works best for children with other learning difficulties. Wojcio convinced his school district to let him implement and instruct a strictly BD class; the 2018-2019 school year served as the program’s test run.
“As a first year goes,” Wojcio says, “this one was extremely fleshed-out, which made things go smoothly from the beginning. I had great coworkers and staff in the room. We were able to work specifically on behaviors such as anxious outbursts and heightened emotions, to the extent that many of these behaviors not only lessened but became extinct.”
The goal of Wojcio’s BD program is to make it possible for kids to transition into an inclusive classroom setting, one in which students with learning disabilities work alongside general education students…
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Thankful for the opportunity to present with Dr Harold Tariff on the topic of Navigating Special Education! We discussed what to expect when you make a referral to the Child Study Team, the different programs available, accommodations and how to prepare for the different types of meetings with your CST.
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