Online Schooling When Your Child has Autism

Fall has arrived, and your child’s school has gone to online education due to the pandemic. You are not trained as a teacher. You have no idea how to manage online schooling for your child who has autism. What should the schooling focus be? How do you begin to adjust your life to this? 

Your Role as a Guide in Online Schooling

Your role as the parent guide continues in its trajectory as it did before COVID came into your life. 

The biggest impact the pandemic made on your life may be that your child must now attend online school and physically learns from home. With that, however, you gained an optimal position to help your child develop. 

Your perspective is part of the steering mechanism that controls success in this process. It is not solely about education…it is also about helping your autistic child become a good thinker, and to develop independence by learning to think and to use their brain in a way that it needs to be used. 

When you are involved with your child in online class, your role takes on that of the teacher guide, meaning, you ensure your child participates in the online program, but you also are in control of guiding them in everyday life vs. scripted and scheduled schooling that may not focus on building dynamic thinking.

Adjusting to Online Schooling

Setting routine, scheduling time for fun, and including your child’s favorite things is a great starting place for both you and your autistic child to adjust to online schooling and to learn skills that develop independent thinking. Learn More

Set a Routine

It is common for a parent to feel panicked with the thought that they do not have time for online or homeschooling. At the same time, your autistic child thrives with routine in the home environment and may resist home school—which may look like out-of-place work to them. 

Set a schedule for both yourself and your child. Consider breaking the schedule up into segments that allow time for each goal. This will not only help you stay organized, but it will help your child adjust to the new routine of online school. 

Create a visual schedule for your child using images or photographs that help your child see at a glance what is happening in their schedule. This will help your child stay on task. 

Be flexible with your schedule to ensure you leave time for unexpected changes and remember that life will happen. This also allows time for you to fold in additional fun or creative activities that enforce the lesson for the day. Look at this as creating a rhythm for your day, rather than a rigid schedule. 

Know that homeschooling typically does not encompass as many hours as in-person schooling. Homeschooling may model around a couple of hours a day, compared to the six or seven hours your child normally is in attendance in a school building. Why the difference? In-person schooling includes breaks, time for each child to process and respond, lunch, exercise activities, and teaching activities. 

Plan Fun and Sensory Time

School field trip days can form into learning experiences. With just a little imagination, history, math, science, or art can become an interesting part of a field trip. Learning, coupled with where and how you teach, is practically limitless. This is your advantage as a teacher guide…you have a golden opportunity to teach outside of a four-walled classroom. 

Visits in public, though, may be limited during the pandemic, but fun activities can be planned around lessons. What is your child’s favorite toy or interest? How can you work math or science, for example, around a fun home-based activity?

Your child may no longer resist school when they are no longer pulled away from their favorite things at home, instead, “class” is woven into enjoyable growth-promoting activities. 

Plan sensory activities to help your child work on motor skills and to act as stress relief. Use common materials that you can find at home or purchase materials (and store away for sensory activities). Work sensory into household activities as well, such as chores that include pushing, pulling, lifting, or other movements that involve motor skills. 

Ensure exercise is included in planned fun times. Schedule time to get outside and ride bikes, take walks, or participate in exercise within the house (dancing, exercise videos, etc.) when the weather does not cooperate. This is not just about recess, remember that it boosts mental health as well!

Related: Planning RDI® Guiding Engagements

Form a Relationship with the Teacher

Distance relationships can feel cold, confusing, or may go stale in absence of one-on-one interaction. Your child’s teacher will delight in knowing that you care about your child, that you intend to be involved, and that you will do everything you can to guide your child at home. 

Your child’s teacher will see you as cooperative. Any questions that you may have, and you should ask questions (you know your child better than any existing or new teacher), will be welcome with the understanding that you are supportive and simply looking to be on the same page. 

Your job as the parent guide is not to issue directives, but to support your child and question education or methods that do not seem to fit in with development goals for your child.

 Mental Health Care and Asking for Help

Your mental health is important in the online schooling process. 

Work relaxation into your day. Let this become a learning experience for your child, “We are relaxing because it helps us to feel better physically and it boosts our mental health.” Get away from the classroom, or class materials, and just “be” yourself. Your child will not only learn from relaxation time, but they will grow to seek it for themselves, “I wish to take a break!” 

Do not waste your energy on the thought that you must take on the role of teacher. Your role as a parent guide covers that. 

Always be patient and forgiving with yourself. Remember that you have unlimited insights into your child and that you have handled many challenges throughout the years as a parent. Online schooling is a new challenge that you will get through with strength and wisdom. 

You do not have to do this alone. Our online learning community is designed for parents to find connection and support with others, with access to the most current resources, and an open door to reach out for professional consultation if additional help is needed. 


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