Families across the country are grappling with how to respond when in-person learning doesn’t translate smoothly into virtual learning. With over 74 percent of the largest school districts in the country fully remote — representing more than 9 million children — parents either need to find a way to make schooling work or drop out of the workforce, a problem that is largely affecting women.
Distance learning is hard on all students, and it is particularly challenging for youths with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. More than 16 million (9.4 percent) of children in the United States have a diagnosis of ADHD. And according to a national 2016 parent survey, 6 in 10 children with ADHD have at least one other mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, such as anxiety, depression or conduct disorder.
Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World, advised: “Try to create realistic working blocks. Most kids can only work for 20 minutes before needing a break.” Parents have to pick their battles and prioritize which classes need a child’s attention the most.
Our nonbinary middle child Dylan, who has ADHD and sensory issues, could not tolerate sitting still. We scrapped the workstation arrangement. The best way to get Dylan through Zoom school was to coat the floor with plastic sheeting and let them paint madly while listening to class. We’ve given up trying to keep paint off the walls, the dog and the sink — this is what works to keep Dylan engaged.
“Doing what works” is a valid strategy. I spoke with Sydnie Dobkin, coordinator of the Adolescent Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) program at Northwestern University’s Family Institute, about how kids and parents can use therapeutic skills to cope with the stresses of remote learning.
“Dialectical behavioral therapy can benefit everyone,” Dobkin said. “It combines cognitive techniques and aspects of Zen Buddhism, such as mindfulness and radical acceptance. The cornerstone of DBT is the idea of dialectics, which means two opposing ideas can both be true at same time.”
“We can’t really limit screen time. We pretend we do, but there is constant ambient exposure with smartphones,” Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School said. He advises that parents shift their energy into improving the non-screen time.
Trusting relationships are the key to a high-functioning classroom, and Marcos Alcaine is a third-grade teacher in a two-way Spanish immersion class in Evanston, Il is fostering personal connections. “One student asked to be a co-host on Zoom so they could share something about their identity with the class. The student was well prepared and read a story,” he said. “Now everyone wants to be a co-host on Zoom. Talking about identities coincided with Latinx heritage week, which led to great conversations about everyone’s families.”
Because keeping kids engaged in e-school is a constant and exhausting effort, Alcaine has brought more play into learning. His class is planning a virtual party. “The kids share ideas, and we put the results in a Google graph,” he said. “We’re doing math, and they like it because it’s about their party.”
Excerpted from “Distance learning not working? Here are strategies to try.” in The Washington Post. Read the full article online for additional details.