This school year has brought a whole host of new challenges and experiences for students, parents and teachers alike. Students with ASD at all levels are having to adapt to the new academic landscape due to changes brought about by COVID-19. It is important to understand how these developments are impacting students’ learning and social and emotional wellbeing.
What follows are some of the benefits and challenges students with ASD are reporting across all levels of schooling, and some strategies for success during the time of COVID-19.
- School feels calmer with social distancing, controlled traffic in hallways, reduced transitions between classes, and lunchtime spent in their classrooms.
- Many ASD students have found it difficult to adapt to the new rules of the school day brought about by COVID-19 protocols.
- Some struggle with the physical sensations of wearing a mask.
- Use visuals to review the new school rules at home and with support staff.
- Pack a mask in your child’s lunch bag so they can feel more refreshed with a new mask.
- Advise support staff of how best to support your child.
- Consider online learning if the physical demands are too great.
- Less cognitive strain due to fewer social and sensory demands, the ability to contribute to the class via text or email instead of talking, and being in the comfort of one’s own home.
- Direct access to the teacher’s audio feed can improve auditory processing.
- It can be hard to stay engaged in virtual learning. Many students, especially those with attention challenges, find it difficult to learn when they’re at home, physically distant from their classmates and teachers and surrounded by distractions.
- Carve out a designated learning space in the home to enhance focus and limit distractions.
- Add movement breaks throughout the day to stimulate the body and mind.
- The quadmester system means students only have to focus on two subjects at a time. This can benefit those who struggle with juggling the academic demands of multiple subjects.
- In-person learning is calmer as there are fewer students, clear entry and exit pathways, and less time spent in crowded noisy hallways as transitions between classes have been reduced.
- Accelerated learning can be difficult for people with slower processing speed.
- The new model shifting between in-person and online learning is placing significant demand on executive functioning.
- Reach out to your school support team to help stay on top of the learning, develop strategies that work for you, and manage stress.
- Consider virtual school if the shifts between in-person and virtual learning are too disruptive.
Post-Secondary Online Learning:
- Scheduled synchronous classes help students organize their time, encourage attendance and provide a weekly structure.
- Students express feeling disconnected, especially first year students who haven’t met their classmates or faculty.
- Digital and on-line learning is difficult for students who struggle with time management and initiation.
- Difficulty multitasking during synchronous lessons. It’s hard to look at the professor and lesson slides on one screen while typing notes all at the same time.
- Technical issues are impacting access and adding stress.
- Connect with your Disability Counsellor to set up academic accommodations.
- Check eligibility for the Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD) to fund technology and counseling support.
- Purchase a second monitor to effectively view multiple windows at once.
- Get outside each day and go for a walk.
- Try to form an online or socially-distanced study group with other students in your class.