You might already be used to technology playing a part in your child’s learning, but parents all over the world were not quite prepared for school days completely filled with technology.
We understand why health and safety make the technology necessary during remote learning but the challenges for everyone are overwhelming.
After all, school and home have been two separate environments with different sets of rules – and now they are often one and the same.
If you have a child with learning disabilities, you’ll need even more techniques to help your child thrive during all the changes.
Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies your child can use to overcome learning difficulties even during remote learning.
Let’s take a look at 7 ways to make remote learning easier for your LD child!
Because I experienced learning challenges as a child, and now help LD kids to succeed academically, I feel I can truly relate and offer some unique tips to make remote learning more effective.
7 Ways to Make Remote Learning Easier for Your LD Child
1. Create the Right Workspace
One of the biggest and most obvious changes to your child’s schooling is their study environment.
Instead of a classroom designed to exclusively be a place of study, they’re now at home, and home is full of all the distractions they wouldn’t have access to in school.
So, first things first, since your child is “going to school” from home, you need to create a space in your home which serves the same purpose as a classroom.
Set your child up with everything they need away from any hub of activity in your house – places like the kitchen, living room, and any place with lots of comings and goings.
Make sure you remove anything which could interfere with your child’s focus from their environment – TVs, phones, video games, etc. – are all things which might tempt your child away from their studies.
This is especially important if your child experiences attentional issues; make sure they aren’t facing windows, and their siblings, pets or other family members know not to disrupt their concentration during class.
Did you know, for example, that if your attention is disrupted when you’re learning or working, it can take over 20 minutes to refocus again?
Therefore, creating an environment that’s optimum for learning is a priority.
One challenge you might experience is your child’s means for remote learning might be a source of distraction itself.
Your child will be joining Zoom calls and Google Classroom sessions using laptops or tablets, and plenty of evidence suggests that despite being amazing tools for learning, they can have negative side-effects too.
For example, one study estimates that 92% of students report using their phones for texting in class, with 80% reporting that it reduces their ability to focus on what they’re learning.
Another 2019 study finds that nearly 50% of students report using laptops or phones in class distracts them from class activity.
A separate study indicates that students tend to use devices in the classroom for non-classroom related purposes two-thirds of the time.
With all this evidence about how electronic devices can distract your child, you need to set clear rules and boundaries with them to make sure they are making the most of remote learning.
For instance, certain apps and services let you block specific web domains and websites which your child might be distracted by during classes.
Remember, though, that you and your child need to discuss these steps together and reach a mutual agreement – blocking websites without letting your child know might indicate you don’t trust them, and create friction between you.
Instead, point out to them all the negative effects of getting distracted in the middle of class, and work together with them to create a classroom environment at home.
2. Help Your Child Stick to a Schedule
With remote learning, the sense of routine you and your child followed gets thrown out the window.
Suddenly there are no lunch breaks or recesses or after-school activities; homework becomes a confusing concept because isn’t all the schoolwork you’re doing now homework?
Because of how confusing, disorienting and overwhelming all of this can be for your child, particularly if they experience attentional issues or academic anxieties, order and method is extremely important.
It can help them stay on track, avoid overwhelm, and effectively tackle their workload.
Since school and home might feel like they’re blending into one, leaving your child at a loss for what they’re supposed to, draw up a timetable together with them!
This incorporates not just their class times, but also home study sessions, mealtimes, when they ought to be up and ready for the day by, and of course when they’re free from school to do what they like.
Encourage and guide them also to keep planners where they take note of all their homework, assignments, tests and so on.
By having a planner or calendar that they regularly update whenever they are assigned work, they can tell at a glance what they need to do and by when, allowing them to plan their learning accordingly.
Thanks to technology, they can also join online platforms like Google Classroom where all participants of their online class can view upcoming deadlines and events on a shared digital calendar.
If your child’s teacher is not already using such functions, do contact them and suggest this as a very handy means to keep all students on track with their upcoming assignments and tests!
If your child struggles to cultivate a habit of updating and checking their planners, make sure to check with them at the end of the day the work they have been assigned, cross-checking with class materials.
And if you find that your child forgets to check their planners, digital planners and calendars in their phones or laptops can automatically notify them when a deadline is coming up!
3. Schedule Frequent Breaks
Breaks are also an important part of scheduling and time management!
This isn’t just because your child finds it boring to spend hours stuck studying – the breaks are necessary for the brain to learn effectively.
When your child is in school, their learning is divided into different subjects and different class periods.
Sometimes they have to move to a different place for specific classes; some schools have a short five-minute break in between every class period.
Your child moves around, goes to their lockers, goes to the washroom; there’s a lunchbreak in the middle of the day, and so on.
Although the current school model is nowhere near the perfect model for learning, these little breaks in their learning help them more than you might imagine.
The brain learns best when the gap between the beginning of a study session and the end of the study session is shorter.
What this means is, the brain learns better in chunks – short, intensive sessions of focused studying, followed by a short break.
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a mathematician, illustrated this using the Ebbinghaus curve of forgetting.
The curve shows how, the longer a person spends learning without making any attempt to retain the information, the steeper their rate of forgetting.
In other words, the greater the gap between the beginning of their learning session (primacy) and the end (recency) the more likely they are to forget the middle.
Shorter sessions are therefore better for retaining what your child is learning; and breaks allow your child’s brain to review and process this information.
So, as you can see, scheduling short, regular breaks between study sessions and making sure your child sticks to them helps them learn!
This can also help them overcome issues with attention, academic anxieties, information overload and more, as I explain in my course The ABCs of Academic Success.
Shorter sessions leave them less room to lose focus, and frequent breaks help them feel recharged!
4. Break Tasks Down into Smaller Chunks
With their teachers only remotely able to assist them, and unable to give them the one-to-one attention they could in the physical classroom, your child will have to learn independently more often.
This, along with the unfamiliarity of remote learning, might overwhelm and leave them feeling anxious.
One of the simplest and most effective ways of overcoming this and helping your child stay on track with their learning is what I call “smashing the task.”
This simply means breaking a task or assignment down into a series of smaller tasks, as I explain in The ABCs of Academic Success.
Where, for example, studying an entire chapter or completing a research paper might be overwhelming to your child, to the point that their brain shuts down and is unable to process information, break the task down into more manageable steps.
Breaking a big task into smaller tasks – for example, instead of reading the whole chapter, you break the task to “Read subtopic A and make notes,” or “brainstorm topics for research paper” – helps keep the brain motivated to learn.
When your child accomplishes one of the mini tasks, their brain rewards them with a sense of accomplishment, due to the activity of something called dopamine neurons in their brain.
The sense of reward they experience thanks to this dopamine makes their brain want to experience it again – which is what creates motivation!
“Smashing the task” not only helps keep your child motivated to learn and avoid overwhelm, it also helps them approach their learning and assignments in a step-by-step, systematic process.
This in turn allows them to build upon their knowledge more robustly – remember how chunking helps your child create more meaningful associations and retain information longer?
Just as you’d stop your child if you saw them trying to swallow a piece of cake or fried chicken whole, and tell them to go bite by bite, and chew thoroughly, smashing the task helps them process, digest, and absorb information in a far more effective way.
5. Help Your Child Review Information Offline
Reviewing is a critical part of retaining what your child learns.
If your child struggles with absorbing and processing information during remote learning, reviewing with them offline might make all the difference in their learning success!
Whether your child struggles with information overload, attention issues, listening comprehension, etc. which might reduce their ability to retain what they’re learning, reviewing the lesson afterwards can help patch the gaps in their knowledge.
The brain stores what it learns in neural pathways, or connections it creates between neurons or brain cells.
When your child reviews the information, the increased activity of their neurons strengthens your child’s memory of the information and turns it into long-term memory.
Think about how you go to the gym to build muscle, and then continue exercising to maintain the muscles – learning is very similar!
And in fact, if they do forget something they learned in class, helping them recall it can actually create a stronger and longer-lasting memory of this information by reviewing afterwards.
The act of consciously retrieving information the brain has learned also strengthens those neural pathways!
So, going over the lesson materials your child covered in class, along with their notes and any other resources provided by the teacher, helps your child build up their knowledge and memory.
Moreover, by doing so offline, they can learn the material at their own pace, with personalized, one-to-one attention that they’re not getting in the classroom.
By using the strategies I mentioned above and in my course, including chunking and smashing the task, you can help your child make up for any gaps in their knowledge during remote learning!
6. Have Your Child Hand Write Their Notes
Since they are already using a device to attend virtual classes, your child might also be typing their notes instead of writing them.
Turns out, though, that according to neuroscientists typing is a far less effective method to learn and retain information, compared to handwriting notes.
People, on average, type faster than they write.
Your child might be able to take down a greater volume of notes because they are typing, but typed notes equate consistently to poorer recall and engagement with the material.
This is because, due to the greater speed at which you can type, your brain is spending less time engaging with the words you’re typing up.
On the other hand, when your child is listening to their online class and writing notes, their brain has to work a bit harder to understand what the teacher is saying, make sense of it, and summarize it quickly before moving on to the next point.
Because they can’t write as fast as what they’re hearing, the brain performs more sense-making of the information, processes it, converts it into a meaningful summary –
All of which improves understanding and recall.
Writing down notes with pen and paper can thus also help your child stay focused on the lesson, since they are actively having to think and get down what they’re learning, compared to typing notes.
7. Read Materials on Paper Instead of On the Screen
Since teachers are sharing learning resources virtually, your child might be doing a lot of their reading on the screen.
Just like typing notes, this isn’t always a brain-friendly method of reading, especially if your child experiences learning difficulties like attentional issues, ADHD, and so on.
The layout and continuous scrolling of online reading does not provide the same sense of control over the text as your child has when reading from the physical page.
Where they are better able to tell where they are, recall and find their place with physical notes and papers – e.g. the corner of pages, the act of turning the page, etc. – online reading often lacks this tactile experience.
Some studies show that reading from the screen can actually drain mental resources.
Factors such as font size, screen brightness, the lack of specific reading “landmarks”, and other on-screen elements make the brain work harder in order to read material in fixed formats like PDFs or scanned pages.
Your child might get tired and lose focus more easily when reading on a screen versus on a physical page.
Studies also show that compared to the printed page, people tend to recall less of what they read off the screen.
If you are able, do print your child’s resources out for them to use.
Encourage them also to create their own notes, which have plenty of brain-friendly benefits, as you already know.
Spending excessive amounts of time on the screen is also bad for your child and for everyone in general!
The blue light filtering out from the screen can upset your child’s sleeping patterns and make it difficult for them to get the rest they need to grow and learn.
So, since they might be spending a lot more time on the screen now due to online classes, try to reduce how much they are on screens at other times.
I hope you found these 7 ways to make remote learning easier for your LD child helpful in navigating the unfamiliar learning environment you and your child are now in.
I go into many more such simple and effective strategies to guide parents along on how to help your child overcome their learning issues in my course The ABCs of Academic Success, a product of all my years of experience, and based on proven solutions which have worked for over 35 years.
Once you’re in, you receive a 15-minute FREE consultation with me, where you can discuss with me any concerns you have about remote learning, or your child’s education overall!
Dana Stahl grew up with a learning disability. With the right help, she resolved it and her superpower is helping your LD child succeed in school, at home or during remote learning.
As an Educational Consultant for over 30 years, she created an easy-to-follow, step-by-step online course called The ABCs of Academic Success so you can help your child thrive academically!