Home learning during the pandemic can be a stressful experience for parents and children alike. If your child is struggling with a Specific Learning Difficulty, (SpLD), such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD or ASD, there are added difficulties to cope with and greater patience often required by parents.
Dyslexic children may need additional time to complete tasks, help with reading and recording, and may find live lessons move too fast.
Auditory processing difficulties and verbal memory weaknesses can impact on memory and understanding, and a poor Wi-Fi connection will make learning impossible. Without a teacher keeping a watchful eye on the child, their attention and focus can wander and older children may switch their camera off and embark on other tasks.
WAYS TO HELP- ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS
Find a quiet place for your child to work with no distractions. Ear defenders can be helpful as can noise-reducing headphones for working online. Make sure your child has a comfortable seating position, but if they work better and their focus is greater laying on the floor or swinging in a hammock let them do this, providing they are not having to write. Fiddle toys can be helpful to maintain focus. If your Wi-Fi is weak consider an ethernet cable available from Amazon for less than £20.
Be aware of eye strain caused by too much screen time. Encourage children to take frequent breaks away from the screen and to blink often. Dry eye spray can be helpful if your child experiences sore or dry eyes. Try to follow the 20/20/20 rule, which means every 20 minutes look away from the screen, approximately 20 feet for 20 seconds.
Assistive technology can be very helpful for some children. If their reading is weak a reading pen can be useful for printed work. Most computers now have immersive reading technology, meaning that Word documents, PDF and websites can be read to the child. If your computer does not have an immersive reader you can upload documents into Natural Reader to have them read to you. This is a little more awkward and time-consuming but is a good free alternative. The gold standard in Text-to-Speech software is Texthelp read&write Gold or Claro Read.
If your child is trying to read a set text you could consider getting the audiobook for them to listen to. Many local libraries have an audiobook loan scheme but the RNIB Library, Listening Books and Borrow Box also lend audiobooks for all ages and you can purchase books from Audible via Amazon. Some Kindle books have Whispersync, which allows readers to switch “back and forth” between a Kindle book and Audible professional narration.
If your child is finding writing difficult you could ask their teacher if they can use alternative ways of recording; depending on the task this could include making a video recording on your phone, a PowerPoint presentation or diagram or a voice notes recording. Alternatively, they could scribe to you or use Speech-to-Text software. This is often integrated into a computer’s accessibility but if it is not, they could use Siri or Google Assistant as a Speech-to-Text facility on a phone or tablet. Dragon Dictate for computers in the gold standard in speech to test software.
ORGANISING THE DAY
Many children will benefit from following a similar routine each day. If your child is receiving live lessons then a routine is set already, but if the child is being asked to watch recorded lessons or complete paper-based tasks then a schedule can be made to suit you both. If your child doesn’t want to start work at 8.30 am then let them have a lay-in and start at 9.30 am. If they wish to have a nap during the day and study past 4 pm and that works for you both then there is no reason not to.
If your child finds it difficult to follow a routine or is upset by a change of routine then a visual timetable can be helpful. Regular breaks with exercise and fresh air are crucial and help improve mental health and focus. If school work is causing too much family stress take a few days off; let the teacher know and embark on a project based around their interest or play learning games. Learning can take many forms and children learn best when they are having fun. Don't be hard on your child, it is a difficult and worrying time for them.
Before your child starts his lessons make sure they have all their materials, books and plenty of water, and if they suffer from visual stress a virtual overlay can be helpful.
If your child needs you to explain to them what is required for a specific task keep your instructions short and simple. Use diagrams, bullet points and visual reminders. If they have a lengthy task, break down the instructions into small steps. Allow time for them to process what you have said and allow for memory lapses and forgetfulness which is often a key difficulty in a dyslexic profile.
If your child is struggling with the amount of work they are getting, negotiate a reduction with their teacher or ask for differentiated tasks. Considering that 25% extra time is awarded in tests and exams, a child who is taking longer to complete work at home should have their workload reduced by 10-25% to take account of the additional time it takes them to complete set tasks.
This blog has discussed just some of the ways to support a dyslexic child during home learning. There is a wealth of other information available including a free webinar from the British Dyslexia Association is available called How to support your child through School closures
we hope this blog has given you some ideas of how to support your child if you would like to talk to us we offer a complimentary 20 minutes consultation which can be booked via the contact us page and online lessons and assessments.