Brought to you by Cultivate’s own BTs, RBTs, and BCBAs
By Madeleine Mengler, M.Ed., RBT
You’ve prepared a learning space, printed and organized materials, and set expectations for the daily routine. Now what?
Motivating your child, creating achievable goals for yourself, and generally setting everyone up for success for consistent, effective virtual learning can be a challenge. We hope the following tips will help parents manage and functionally support schooling from home.
1. Implement a Positive Reinforcement system.
After setting those expectations and explaining them, create a system so your child can earn things they like by following the rules! One example would be earning a sticker each day for following the rules and completing the schedule, and after getting a certain amount of stickers, your child earns extra tablet time, their choice of dinner, or an outing to a park. The system could involve stickers, points, money, tally marks, or another tangible item, and could be earned after each activity, hourly, daily, or weekly.
The links below provide additional information on creating effective reward systems for virtual learning.
2. Use appropriate visual aids.
Depending on your child, a checklist, a visual schedule, visual representations of the positive reinforcement system, and visual reminders of daily routines can be a big help in getting through the day. Visuals of the rules for school hours will also make the workspace feel more like a familiar learning environment, in addition to reminding them of those expectations. Visuals can also help when transitioning from break time to learning time: for example, showing the child there are 5 minutes left on the clock or using a “2-minute warning” visual. Check out our parent training on daily and visual schedules for more information!
The resources below provide printable visual schedule aids.
3. Make careful activity choices.
In general, placing your child’s favorite activities after lower preferred activities has been proven to increase the likelihood that that child will transition to and complete that lower preferred activity. It can also be helpful to make some preferred activities available only during school time breaks and others available only after school time is over so your child doesn’t get tired of them. Some children may actually need fidget spinners, play doh, stress balls, or other sensory toys to help them focus on the lessons, while others may need to wait to use those items on breaks. You know your child best!
Check out the links below to get inspired!
4. Breaks are essential.
Everyone needs breaks, and breaks look different for everyone. Some kids will need a wiggle break at every opportunity to dance, play the floor is lava, or just go for a quick walk around the yard. For others, a break could involve a game, sensory toy, or a little lie down on the couch. Make sure to consistently include breaks in the schedule, especially after more difficult lessons and tasks. There may be times when your child finishes their assignment but has not been dismissed from virtual learning yet, in which case it may help to have toys or activities available to keep them occupied until they move to the next lesson or are dismissed for a full break.
The resources below provide ideas to encourage movement throughout the day.
5. Promote independence whenever possible.
Include your child in the prep process: for some, they may be able to do most or all of the cleaning, organizing, and preparation for the next day themselves. Step-by-step instructions for how to log on or troubleshoot technological issues, an organized space, labels on storage areas for materials, and visual schedules can all help keep kids on task and problem solving independently. If appropriate, instead of staying near your child for the duration of their learning time, set a schedule for yourself to check in on your child, but give them the opportunity to be independent. Hopefully, the more independent they can become in virtual learning, the less often they have to go find an adult to help them!
Learn more about daily visual schedules parent training presentation.
Bearss, K., Johnson, C. R., Handen, B. L., Butter, E. M., Lecavalier, L., Smith, T., & Scahill, L. (2018). Parent training for disruptive behavior: the Rubi Autism Network. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press.
Dettmer, S., Simpson, R. L., Myles, B. S., & Ganz, J. B. (2000). The use of visual supports to facilitate transitions of students with autism. Focus on autism and other developmental disabilities, 15(3), 163-169.
Kearney, A. J. (2015). Understanding applied behavior analysis: An introduction to ABA for parents, teachers, and other professionals. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Lequia, J., Machalicek, W., & Rispoli, M. J. (2012). Effects of activity schedules on challenging behavior exhibited in children with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 1(6), 480-492.