Yesterday I received a photo showing a white-painted garden house with the banner “Welcome to 3rd Grade”. It was wide open towards the green meadow showing a teacher and seven children (not pictured because of confidentiality). The students were socially distanced and wore headsets, obviously participating in online schooling. The photo was taken close to my home in Southern California, which is currently plagued by high infection rates. Until the risk goes down online schooling will be our norm.
Parents, particularly those who now work from home, are now searching for individual solutions for their kids’ education. It has been demonstrated that young regular education students were significantly set back by online instruction only. Their attention is not engaged during the entire class. They often engage in multi-tasking through chats, emails and Google searches. Most parents can only dream about a virtual school experience such as took place in the garden cottage discussed above, where a teacher actually supervised small student groups in online education.
Children, adolescents and adults with Autism suffered in a unique way from the stress of the past Corona months. Those with autism tend to be afraid of changes and prefer their familiar routines. The changes in their regular home, school and job routines, mask wearing, constant disinfection and hand washing as well as restrictions in movement posed immense challenges for this group.
Especially non-verbal more severely impaired individuals did not understand the “new normality”. Many had no schooling at all and had to be supervised by their parents, other family members or neighbors, since schools argued that the students were unable to respect the safety and hygiene rules. Well meant teacher’s efforts with “We miss you” signs or online songs failed to be very helpful.
Highlights during the pandemic
On the other hand, some positive experiences during the last half-year were noted and maybe those can give directions in case the pandemic continues to make regular schooling unpredictable. Let’s look at some positives:
Combining the best from on- & offline schooling
When we had to make a decision between Germany and the US a guest wrote into our guest book “Take the best of both worlds”. What does that mean for on-/offline-schooling for students with autism in case the pandemic lives with us for a longer time period?
Maybe you have additional “good ideas” for this difficult time, which you want to share! In the coming blog we can discuss ways to explain the pandemic to children with autism. We will also suggest ideas for social distancing and options to enhance social skills online.
Even if we can’t provide a garden-house alternative for students with autism, positive developments in different countries can alert to chances … maybe even the prospect that learning for individuals with autism improves even more after the pandemic.