Since the start of the Coronavirus quarantine several months ago, remote learning has proven to be extremely challenging for many children with autism and their parents who have been deprived of vital therapies and services. In a Washington Post article this month, one mother, Jackie Spinner, described how her 8-year-old son with autism has actually thrived and succeeded during the Coronavirus lockdown.
“At home during the pandemic, I’ve been almost solely responsible for teaching my son,” Spinner wrote. “After the first 15-minute weekly meetup with his class, he wasn’t interested in engaging with anyone online again. I didn’t force any more of the sessions, the only virtual instruction he was offered, especially after one of his classmates named the other kids on the chat that he planned to invite to his birthday party, leaving out my son.”
As an alternative to online learning, Spinner relied on paper remote learning packets she picked up weekly from her son’s school, and reached out to her neighbor, who was a special education teacher for advice on how to teach the material. The teacher recommended sticking with paper, which Spinner explained proved to be a successful approach, since her son was not overstimulated and was able to work at his own pace. She added that learning remotely has also been beneficial for her son, by removing the social pressure imposed on him at school. At the same time, she acknowledged that not all parents have the advantage of teaching their children at home the way that she did, due to struggles with employment.
“While I was struggling to work and teach my kids, I was nonetheless working,” Spinner wrote. “We have a printer and a computer; we have access to the Internet.”
Spinner believes her success in teaching her son from home could serve as a positive framework for the way that services are provided in the future.
“In the future, I want to make sure that his aide support looks more like the support I gave him at home the past few months, which is possible if we reframe it,” she wrote. “He doesn’t need a babysitter for behavior management. He needs a tutor. He needs teachers who will push him and know, deep down, as I do, that he is capable of doing the work. He needs to be treated like the 8-year-old boy he has grown into…the pandemic has shown me quite clearly what worked and what didn’t. My son made straight A’s the last quarter of second grade, the best grades he has ever earned.”