8 Virtual Learning Challenges for Children with Learning Differences

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Virtual learning has become necessary for many during the COVID-19 crisis

Key challenges facing students with learning difficulties include:

  1. Trouble staying focused.
  2. Trouble following complex directions.
  3. Trouble working independently.
  4. Trouble navigating technology.
  5. Lack of structure.
  6. Lack of social interactions.
  7. Lack of individualized instruction.
  8. Lack of multi-sensory instruction.

The remote environment is not always the ideal learning environment. It can be especially difficult for students with learning differences, such as those with ADHD, dyslexia, or a child on the autism spectrum. We talk about the challenges students face and offer virtual learning support solutions so your child doesn’t fall behind.

Individualized learning plans

There are around 7 million children with special needs in the U.S. Many of them qualify for specialized accommodations at school through the Individuals with Disabilities Act. Called IEPs, the law requires schools to provide specialized instruction, aids, or services to children with physical, developmental, or learning differences. These programs can include more time to complete assignments or tests and visual/audio/physical aids to full-time help in the classroom.

The system works well when it comes to in-person learning. Unfortunately, many of these accommodations and services are not possible with virtual learning. This leaves parents in a bind. It also causes children who struggle with learning to have even more challenges in school.

What are some of the struggles children with learning differences face?

1. Trouble staying focused

Children with learning differences often have issues with focus and concentration. They might have a short attention span or become easily distracted. Distraction tends to multiply when the teacher is only seen via a computer screen.

Kids with ADHD, dyslexia, or autism often need closer supervision, which can’t always be provided remotely.

2. Trouble following directions

Tasks that require multiple steps or complicated directions can be a challenge for students, especially if they struggle with executive functioning skills such as task management. They often require tasks to be broken up into smaller elements that can be more easily followed. Requiring them to remember each step with minimal direction leads to frustration, anger, and negative behaviors. Simply expecting the child to pick up and understand lessons or the details of assignments will not work.

3. Trouble working independently

Virtual learning requires a certain degree of independence for students to complete assignments or tests. Most virtual environments offer a morning session where assignments are given and an afternoon session, which might include a review or submission of work.

Everything in between is up to the student (or you as the parent). A student with a learning difference who needs close supervision, in-depth instruction, or extra help may not be capable of that degree of independence.

4. Trouble navigating technology

While technology is part of our lives, it has not been used in education to this extent before. Receiving lessons via computer or chat sessions is not the best learning environment. Navigating technology can be a struggle for many students and parents (and teachers). It can be even more difficult for students with learning differences. Logging on to video channels, paying attention during sessions, and receiving/turning in work are all challenges that can be hard for these students to tackle successfully.

5. Lack of structure

Children tend to thrive best in a structured environment where they learn what is expected of them. The typical school day is built around a strict schedule that everyone must follow.

While some children with learning differences appreciate having the freedom to take frequent breaks or complete assignments on their timetable, many need that structure to get things done. They can even become agitated or act out when the usual schedule is disrupted. This makes any type of learning nearly impossible.

6. Lack of social interaction

While much of the focus surrounding school is on academics, we cannot discount the importance of social interaction for children. Students learn much more than ABCs. They learn how to:

  • work with others
  • solve disagreements
  • share everything from snacks to ideas

These interactions are just as important for students with learning differences. They may be even more important. Without regular social interaction, they might regress or struggle with isolation and emotional or psychological issues.

Now that we’ve identified some of the key ways children with learning differences struggle in a virtual learning environment let’s discuss how to support them.

7. Lack of individualized instruction

Students with learning differences often need extra support and instruction in class. The remote school environment makes this very difficult to achieve. Sessions are almost always in a group setting, and they usually last for a limited time. This structure can leave students with learning differences struggling and unsupported.

8. Lack of multi-sensory instruction

Multi-sensory instruction engages more than one sense at a time to teach students with learning differences. For instance, it can help children with dyslexia learn how to read more efficiently. This kind of instruction is almost impossible in a virtual group setting. So these students cannot get the kind of specialized instruction they need to keep up with other kids in their class.

Five tips to help your child cope and thrive

1. Understand your child’s breaking point

How long can your child reasonably stay focused in a virtual session? Is it five minutes? Ten? Thirty? Maybe your child learns better in the morning versus the afternoon?

Let your child’s teachers know this information and work to sync online time to take advantage of your child’s individual learning habits.

Perhaps you can arrange daily individualized sessions with your child’s teachers? Or perhaps your child can be given a special hands-on project or some other modified assignment that fits more with his/her abilities or strengths?

2. Take frequent breaks

If concentration and focus are issues for your child, take advantage of the more flexible schedule to take frequent breaks. Let your child run around outside or work off excess energy in other ways.

3. Create the right learning environment

This tip can be applied to all children. Set up an environment free from distractions. Create a designated workstation in a quiet, out of the way area and make sure to remove all electronic devices that are not needed for school.

If necessary, your child can try wearing wireless earphones or earbuds that allow more freedom of movement while also cutting down on outside noises and distractions.

4. Find ways to maintain a good teacher/student relationship

When children form bonds with teachers, they naturally want to please them. The virtual learning environment makes it harder to maintain those relationships.

If your child is disengaged or unwilling to do the work, it may stem from a lack of interaction with the teacher. Try to set up some individual time with the teacher that isn’t only about schoolwork. This will help your child stay motivated and excited to learn.

5. Find ways to maintain social interactions

It’s difficult for many children with learning differences to form friendships. They may have trouble relating and interacting with their peers. Losing friendships they have managed to build can be devastating emotionally and psychologically.

So, it’s important to find ways for your child to see their friends and classmates, even if you have to get together virtually or be socially distant.

Find virtual learning support in Fort Lauderdale

If your child needs extra help, The Learning Lab has the resources you need. Our eLearning Support Lab is designed to bridge the gap between the support your child needs and what their school can provide in a virtual setting. We help children navigate the logistics of online learning. We also support them with homework and reteach challenging topics when needed.

Our I3 Lab is designed to help children who struggle with learning differences. Our evidence-based curriculum includes a number of systems, such as the Barton Reading and Spelling System®, Foundation in SoundsTM, and the Fast ForWORD® adaptive reading program. 

We can help with a variety of challenges, including:

  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia and related conditions
  • Reading difficulties
  • Auditory processing disorder (APD)
  • Mild to moderate autism
  • Other learning disabilities

Contact us today to get virtual learning support in Fort Lauderdale.

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