COVID-19 has not only disrupted your life, but your child’s educational needs. We know definitively that your child is not returning to school in mid- April, so what now? You have to help your child maintain some semblance of normalcy. This week we will work on setting realistic goals and expectations for your child’s learning and daily needs during this lock down. The first step is to create a realistic Weekly Event Calendar for your child. The calendar will now become your child’s daily routine. Below you will see a replica calendar that was created for a client. For privacy reason, I changed the name to Imeh. Imeh means peace in my language (Ibibio). We did not put a set time on Imeh’s calendar because there will be off and on days. There may be days Imeh will not want to wakeup at 8:00am and we kept that in mind as we created the calendar. For example, on a day Imeh decides to wake up at 11:00am and not at 8:00am, Imeh still has to brush her teeth, but if Imeh sees that on her Calendar, 11:00am is schoolwork time, Imeh may insist on doing schoolwork. Your child may refuse to wake up on your set time, and because you had written time into the Calendar, it may confuse your child. Therefore, it is best to focus on establishing consistency and not focus on time management at this time.
Simplifying the Steps to Brushing Teeth
Prior to COVID-19, you and your child’s ABA providers or special education teacher may have been working on independently brushing her teeth, or independently getting dressed but you are not able to maintain that goal. It is okay to modify that goal. Below is how we modified Imeh’s goals .
- Imeh will follow her mom to the bathroom independently with less than 6 verbal prompts with 80% consistency.
- Imeh will identify her toothbrush and will allow mom to assist her in brushing her teeth with 7 verbal encouragements with 70% consistency.
How will you reward your child for completing her goals?
- Plan with your child on what she wants to earn, after completing each task.
- Be sure the reward last long enough for you to be able to get ready for the next activity on the schedule ( give about 15 to 20 minutes break).
- While I am not a big fan of putting a child on the screen first thing in the morning, desperate times do require flexibility, therefore, your child should be allowed to earn her TV time for anything that is completed successfully.
- Put a time limit on the TV watching, she can earn time back after completing more work.
- Consult with your ABA or other providers, what they used as a reinforcement that worked.
- Use a timer on your phone or download a time timer https://www.commonsense.org/education/app/time-timer
- When it comes close to transitioning time, start reminding your child that the time is almost up.
- Remind your child that when the timer goes off, it will be time to eat breakfast.
- Don’t walk over and turn off the TV, as it may upset your child and cause meltdown, rather encourage your child to check the calendar.
How We Simplified Imeh’s Breakfast Expectations
- Imeh will transition to the breakfast table when her timer goes off with less than 6-8 reminders
- With encouragements, Imeh will eat 60% of her food prior to the timer going off.
- Imeh will finish her breakfast when the timer goes off (make sure to give your child 30 minutes, before you encourage her to cleanup).
- With verbal prompts and hand over hand (if needed), Imeh will assist in cleanup of breakfast utensils with 70% consistency with 6 verbal reminders.
Your child is probably doing all of the above skills independently and if so make your goals slightly higher. However, because we are working towards having consistency and making our lives easier to manage, starting with lowering our expectations reduces our stress.
How will you reward your child for completing her goals?
- Be sure to give room between each routine of about 10-20 minutes.
- Your child may need to go to the bathroom before schoolwork starts, that gap between activities allows for the bathroom break.
- During the reward break, it is also time for you to collect your activities and be ready to support your child’s educational needs.
- Include a mental break for yourself. Make sure the reward last long enough for you to be able to get ready for the next activity on the schedule and also have a coffee or tea break.
- Given that your child is about to work on cognitive tasks (learning), this maybe a great opportunity to have a calm quiet reward.
- Your child can listen to her favorite music and jump around etc., in a safe area until you are ready.
Setting Up your Learning Station
This will be different for each child. Some children work best at the table and others work best on the floor. Your child’s work area should be clear of any distractions. It should only have items needed for learning. Please don’t setup work area in the room most traveled or near the area your child plays at.
This child learns best working on computer
This child learns best on a table with no clutter
This child learns best with sitting on a bean bag
Essential Tools for Any Child’s Learning Area
- Preferred sensory toys (please consult with your OT)
- Visual schedule of intended work
- Break Schedule and type of breaks
- Boxes for storing the tasks.
How to Work with Your Child
It is important to start from the bottom to the top. This means use this week as a setting up routine and reviewing work week. Go through the packages the teacher sent home and take out things you know your child is familiar with and has done in the past. Keep things simple
Simple Learning Goals for this Week
- Imeh will sit and complete 3 peg board with less than 7 reminders
- Imeh will complete 3 sorting trays with less than 5 reminders prior to taking a break.
This has not been an easy week, but I hope by sharing some of these ideas, I am helping in some ways. Know that we are all going through a defining moment. There are numerous online resources that has great ideas. Please click on the links below for more resources.
Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at email@example.com.