Manju is a Commerce lecturer at The Aditya Birla Integrated School, Fort, Mumbai. She is a certified Youth Mental Health First Aider as well. Manju helps prepare students with learning disabilities for mainstream education.
Just when we were hopeful of life going back to pre-Covid normalcy, the second wave of Covid pummeled us and yet again put us all in a lockdown. It is undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone, and more so for children with learning disabilities; who have been away from set routine and social settings for far too long.
Parents can make a multitude of difference in the experiences of children with learning disabilities. Learning disabilities can be of many types such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia and it can also manifest as a result of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Though the pandemic has kept all children at home, we can use this time to engage them constructively through the following tips –
1. It is utmost important to set a fixed routine to follow
The major drawback of this pandemic has been that children have lost their routine. It shall help children with learning disabilities to have a visual schedule of the day in front of them that they can follow, setting alarms for when a task shall begin and using a countdown timer to when a task should end can help bring in much-needed structure.
2. Plan out activities based on the type of learner your child is –VAK (visual, auditory and/or kinesthetic)
If your child is a visual learner you can engage them with informational videos, picture books, charts and visually appealing toys/objects. If your child is an auditory learner, they would follow verbal instructions efficiently. Activities such as listening to audiobooks and podcasts, read aloud, teach what you have learnt, associating music with concepts and ideas can keep them engaged. For kinesthetic learners, using salt tray for drawing alphabets, numbers and objects, sensory bin, hopscotch to teach concepts, art and craft activities and letting them help through the house chores can help.
3. Weavingexperiential learning activities through the day is important to develop social and cognitive skills amongst learners at the same time keeping them engaged –
Autism spectrum disorder – Making use of sensory games can help to a great extent, coupled with fixed visual schedules of the day. Routine helps children with ASD to become receptive and remain settled through the day.
ADHD – Allowing them to fidget, playing indoor games, and relaxation and meditation activities can help keep them engaged. It is important to give them planned breaks in between activities to sustain the attention longer.
Dyslexia – Making use of audio books, podcasts and music can keep them busy through the day.
Dysgraphia – Using modeling clay, paper mazes, memory games and other such activities can help develop their fine motor skills.
Dyscalculia – Involving them in online shopping, playing with a clock, number treasure hunt and using visual and tactile objects to learn basic math concepts can keep them occupied for long.
4. Set aside time for children to socializewith friends and family
It can help to keep them connected and develop their social skills.
5. Do not forget to use rewards and reinforcements for building long-lasting habits
Reinforcement is the key to keep them on track. Always try to use positive reinforcement and positive punishment as opposed to negative reinforcement and negative punishment.
6. Take the support of siblings during activity time
This will help the children stay engaged for longer, it will enable you to focus on other tasks and commitments, make siblings more hands on with helping children with learning disabilities and it will give a conducive setting for group or pair activities which can lead to improvement in social skills.
7. Include exercising in the daily routine, follow a healthy diet and sleep schedule
Exercising, diet and sleep plays a major role in reducing stress, improving attention, and maintaining a healthy hormonal balance in all children
8. Never shy away from seeking help when needed
Remember parents, it is imperative to take care of yourself first to be able to work effectively with your child.