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ABA In The World Of Remote Learning

In this excerpt from You Can Have An ABA Classroom!, author Beth Greenhagen addresses the best practices for designing and evaluating a distance learning curriculum for students with special needs. 

You might be thinking "This is impossible! Many of my students can only perform basic tasks, even with help!" Remember that even though you are teaching remotely, you will still be required to report on your students' IEP goals and objectives. You could do this by conducting live one-to-one sessions with your students, or you could connect with your students and their families by using an online instructional program (examples include Boomlearning and MouseTrial). Whatever you do, keep it simple! Target the most pertinent objectives (e.g. the ones that affect home skills) and as you start to see progress, add on more.

How to have an ABA classroom online: You need cooperation from family members to effectively run one-to-one sessions. Your families will need a lot of guidance to effectively run sessions using ABA principles with you. Be patient and go slowly. Reinforce the assisting family member with lots of encouragement and praise. For example, you may ask a student to identify a visual when you hold up two, but you may not be able to tell if the student chose correctly. You likely need a family member assisting to tell you if the student chose correctly. If you can get concrete materials to the families to assist in the instruction, do it! Some families may not be able to print materials out at home, so it’s best to mail physical materials for live instruction if possible.

Find ways to relate current IEP goals and objectives to useful household activities that are meaningful for families. For example, if your student has a compliance objective, begin to work on a simple cleaning routine. Teaching a student to wipe a table with a disposable wipe is helpful at home and can also be carried over when in-person instruction resumes. If your student has an objective dealing with multi-step directions, work on daily routines like hand washing, brushing teeth, making microwave popcorn, or making a sandwich. You will need to teach your families to apply task analysis with their child. Practice with them during live sessions before asking them to do it on their own. Don’t forget to include the Occupational Therapist when coming up with a plan for these types of activities. Though it may be difficult for some families to stop doing household tasks for their child, they will likely appreciate an opportunity to help their child become more independent.

Don’t hesitate to ask your paraprofessionals for help with online direct and group instruction. Use their skills to your advantage. Remote learning is challenging for all instructors and working as a team can make everything go more smoothly. 69% of special education teachers surveyed said that if they had to continue to teach remotely, they would explore more interactive online tools. The easiest kind of online instructional programs for students with high levels of need are set-up in discrete trial format. Most likely these programs will cost money, so it would be up to your special education program to determine your budget. Online discrete trial programs make it easy to get concrete data on how your students are progressing on their individual objectives. 

For more information on integrating ABA into your special needs classroom (online or in person), check out You Can Have An ABA Classroom!, available exclusively from Different Roads To Learning.