Remote Learning - Setting Up For Success
The following post is an excerpt from Remote Learning With ABA, a guide for parents created by Dana Reinecke, PhD, LBA, BCBA for use with our Remote Learning With ABA kit.
Whether your child is going to school in-person or virtually, or you are entirely homeschooling, teaching and learning at home can be daunting for both you and your student. It can also be incredibly rewarding and lead to greater gains and generalization of skills than traditional school alone. As in any educational programming, the skills to be taught and strategies used should be individualized for maximum success, but there are some things you can do that are pretty universal to set you and your child up for an enjoyable experience.
First, remember that motivation is key for getting your child to happily participate in the activities that you plan. Motivation is the term used to describe anything that makes an item or activity more or less appealing, so it’s helpful to think of ways to increase the appeal of learning time and decrease the appeal of competing activities. Here are some suggestions:
A key strategy for increasing motivation and improving engagement is providing choices wherever possible. Giving choices doesn’t mean not having any control, however. For example, the choice should not be whether or not we are going to read, but which of these three books we are going to read. Similarly, the choice may not be whether or not we are going to do math, reading, and spelling, but in which order we do those activities. You can also offer choices of writing implements (does it really matter if they use a boring pencil or a sparkly pen?) and locations for where to do a particular learning activity (on the bed, the floor, or even outside?). Some children do well with choosing how long an activity will be done for, given a reasonable selection of times – we can do this activity for 5, 7, or 9 minutes – and let them choose and set a timer. Giving your child control in some of these parts of their learning may help to improve motivation and make them feel like more of a partner in the whole effort.
It is important to remember that learning can and should be fun. Even when something is challenging for your child, it may be possible to turn it into a game or at least embed some laughter where you can. One way is to use themes that are appealing to your child. A kid who loves superheroes might be more engaged with word problems that feature Batman and Superman, and a child who is fascinated by animals might be more inclined to participate in spelling animal names than random words. Of course, you will eventually want your child to be able to engage in activities that are not only high-interest themed, but the transition can be gradual. Maybe for a whole week all math activities are superhero themed, and then the next where there are 80% superhero problems and 20% more generic ones. The week after that you might be ready for 50/50. There’s probably never a reason to completely eliminate regularly embedding those high-interest stimuli in learning, however.
Learning is also more fun when you are doing it together. If possible, let your child be the teacher sometimes. Deliberately make mistakes and laugh about them, and then correct them. Modeling cooperative and enthusiastic participation may help your child to understand what you are looking for from them.
Most of all, remember that the goal of teaching your child at home is not just to teach them the specific skills that you are targeting. Learning with you as a parent also provides many other valuable lessons, including that you are invested and interested in their success, that you enjoy spending time with them, and that you listen to their communication.
About The Author
Dana Reinecke is a doctoral level Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a New York State Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA). Dana is a Core Faculty member and Associate Chair in the Applied Behavior Analysis department at Capella University. She is also co-owner of SupervisorABA, an online platform for BACB supervision curriculum and documentation. Dana provides training and consultation to school districts, private schools, agencies, and families for individuals with disabilities. She has presented original research and workshops on the treatment of autism and applications of ABA at regional, national, and international conferences. She has published her research in peer-reviewed journals, written chapters in published books, and co-edited books on ABA and autism. Current areas of research include use of technology to support students with and without disabilities and online teaching strategies for effective college and graduate education. Dana is actively involved in the New York State Association for Behavior Analysis (NYSABA), and is currently serving as Past President (2019-2020).