Skip To Content

    17 Tried-And-True Remote Learning Tips For Parents Of Kids With Special Needs

    From parents who are going through the same thing.

    Online learning from home is tough on all students, but especially those with special needs.

    A mom and her young son with special needs.

    So, to find out how parents and teachers are dealing with the challenge of remote learning when their child or student has special needs, we asked the BuzzFeed Community to share their most helpful tips. Here's what they had to say.

    A mom and her son with special needs.

    1. Before school starts, reach out to their special education teachers and ask for ongoing collaboration — including suggestions, interventions, and increased breaks and check-ins.

    "Teachers are professionals in the field and you are a professional for your child. Together you can accomplish so much and ensure success! Start that communication with them now. If your child has an IEP, request for these things to be added to them so it is done daily — as it is a law-abiding document. Advocate AND collaborate, pandemic or not." —crosbydog87

    2. Designate a special at-home area as a "school zone" — or at least a place for Zoom time.

    A mom's at-home school setup for her young son — which includes a desk and art  easel with magnets.

    3. Or, if you don't have space for a separate zone, make a special school placemat for the kitchen table.

    "Big or small, it can be really helpful to use environmental cues to establish the difference between school time and regular time at home. This can also include getting kids dressed and up at a consistent time. I'm a special education teacher and I can tell you that my students are most successful in school when they have a routine." —ssurblis

    4. For kids who need movement to focus, consider getting a sensory chair.

    A mom's at-home school desk for her son, with a sensory chair and laptop.

    5. Fidget toys, headphones, and non-distracting snacks can also be helpful.

    "My kid has PTSD so we are struggling through some hypervigilance stuff. Headphones have been her best friend also having fidget toys and little snacks in arms reach. I pack her a little bento box with fruit and veggies. Things she can eat with out being distracting to her classmates." —danalwilkerson

    6. Get familiar with one new person — or one new thing — at a time.

    7. Lean on routines.

    "Routine is key for us — it's been the most important and nurturing way to help our kiddo navigate through this. We will take breaks often to help our son reset and get back to feeling like he can deal with what comes next. And patience! It's not only a virtue but a must in times like these. Explain and repeat yourself as often as necessary." —Bethann Jauron

    8. Ask the school for a copy of the daily schedule they typically use — then mirror that at home.

    "I'm a preschool teacher at a school for children with special needs. When we closed down, some parents called the school to ask for copies of the visual schedules we used in their classrooms so they could try to mimic what they did in class on a regular day. This was a way to try and give kids a sense of normalcy." —Katie B.

    9. Recognize that there are days when things just aren't going to happen as planned — and that’s completely ok.

    A messy at-home school desk covered in playdough and erasers,

    10. As a parent, don't be afraid to ask for help — whether it's from teachers, administration, case managers, or even a Facebook group.

    "This is new territory for all of us. Be patient, and listen to your child and their concerns. Behavior is communication. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. And let your student's teachers know if you need help!" —sadderbutwisegirl

    11. Take advantage of Pinterest.

    Math worksheets found on Pinterest

    12. If you are having difficulty getting your child to do a task, use if/then statements.

    "If you complete the coloring worksheet, then you get iPad time.'" —graceatkins93

    13. Take what you know your child enjoys and use it to their advantage.

    "My 5-year-old daughter is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal. One of the most successful things we do is to teach through play. By using toys and activities she loves, we’ve seen huge leaps in her vocabulary and language comprehension. Since quarantine began, her list of words has tripled. We’ve used songs to do that because she loves music, stickers, and sensory games. The book Autism: The Potential Within is a great resource to help structure that." —Laura D.

    14. Be open to different ways of doing things — including screen learning.

    A screenshot of learning apps available on PBS Kids.

    15. Use Alexa to set alarms for all of your Zoom appointments and set up a schedule for each subject for the entire week.

    "I put all the work that needs to be done under each subject and divide it up so a little gets done each day. If he has a lot scheduled that day, I go lighter on the work. Make sure you add movement breaks, too. Don’t try to get it all done in a few hours. Spread it out like it would be in a regular school day." —Tricia A.

    16. Pick your battles, and don't fight over something that won't matter much in the grand scheme of things.

    17. Remember to give yourself grace.

    "Home health nurse here. My patient can half-hear and is blind. Changing rooms and environments has been helpful — for example, my patient has a swing chair that he enjoys for movement during morning announcements. Most of all, remember to go easy on yourself (and your student or kid) as it is challenging and frustrating for both. You are doing great and being the best parent you can be!" —purplegem2015

    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.