Special Needs Learning in the Time of Covid-19
While most Singaporean students have switched to home-based learning since 8 April, learning has almost come to a halt for special needs children. In the first week of Singapore’s circuit breaker, I attempted to conduct one-to-one Zoom lessons with my special needs students. Across the board, my students were unable to adapt to the change, largely because they can’t see me in person and do not understand why I am communicating with them through the iPad. My first week of circuit breaker lessons was met with tantrums and meltdowns.
A Strain on Children and Parents
Autistic children do well with routine, and the Covid-19 circuit breaker in Singapore has caused a huge disruption in their schedule. We are now required to wear masks once we step out of our homes, yet autistic children with sensory issues might feel the urge to remove their masks. Moreover, many special needs students struggle to focus on and follow their school’s online lessons. Said one parent of my student, an 8-year old autistic boy who goes to a mainstream primary school, “Home-based learning is not very smooth. I must sit next to him and call him many times to start writing.”
During this period, parents have to take on the role of teacher and therapist to their special needs children. This is on top of having to work, cook, do housework, and take care of other children in the household. There is no personal downtime.
It’s OK if Progress Looks Different This Season
As a music teacher, I’m tremendously worried that an extended period without lessons will wipe out the progress we have made this year. I am also bracing myself for my students to greet me with anxiety when we resume lessons, after not seeing me for 2 months.
It is unfortunate how Covid-19 has impacted our daily lives, however, we must remain positive. I remind parents that it is ok if progress looks different this period. It is inevitable that your child’s progress will likely be slower this period, and for some students with more severe autism, learning might completely stop.
Right now, I encourage parents to focus on your family’s well-being above all else. This way, hopefully when the circuit breaker is lifted, we can bounce back quickly.