Covid19 pandemic has taught us a lot, and homeschooling is one such skill that almost every parent has learnt during this difficult time. Even those who thought they couldn’t teach, taught their kids very well.
Of course, a vast majority want the regular schooling back, however, if you are raising a child on the spectrum or your child has learning differences like ADHD, you do need to keep up with homeschooling, even for less than an hour.
Even if you are not homeschooling properly, and your ASD/ADHD child is already enrolled in a mainstream school or special needs center, it is important to sit with your child for sometime and do some structured activities, i.e. play, arts & crafts, reading, music etc.
The biggest problem is when you are just getting started and the child is not liking it. You do your best to make him sit and he is doing his best to escape.
I homeschool my ASD son full time, and thought to share my experience on this, i.e. how I conquered this phase!
1- Have Your Team
It was just me and him or else if daddy is there he is in my team. It is very important for both the parents to be on the same page. Child might try to run to the other parent for escape and this is where he should know from your talk and facial expressions that the escape is not possible because mom and dad are the team right now!
2- Have a Safe Space
Make it a limited space which is safe yet has all the required items in reach. For instance, we have a 1 bedroom hall with 2 washrooms and I locked everything except the living room and the wash room in there. So he doesn’t have the option to protest here and there.
Moreover, it’s also good to remove unnecessary clutter, i.e. arrange furniture on one side, and better to start with on floor activities. You can take stuff to the table, once you have become good playmates.
3- Use Toys/Favorite Activities to Your Advantage
Some experts suggest starting play with a child’s favorite toys, i.e. if he loves cars, you should also show interest in cars and get along. This is a great way to get started and win the child’s trust that you are interested in his world and ultimately he will be willing to be interested in what you are going to introduce.
However, in some cases, things can be different, i.e. when the child has extremely rigid interests and severe communication deficit (low or no receptive language). If that’s the case and you want the child to develop interest in other toys so he can lose his rigid interests and have more options to explore. This is when you should probably hide all favorite and not so favorite stuff, because at times when a favorite car is not visible they find an excuse with not so favorite one.
On the other hand make your chosen toys available, i.e. that you want to use to develop the play skills, i.e. puzzles, ball and bat, etc. Introduce your preferred toys and use child’s favorite items as a reward for showing interest in new stuff (even if he/she has not played much, but just spent a short interval in exploring the new stuff).
4- It Must be Fun
Make sure you have some really fun things planned for the time when you sit. Maybe making bubbles or doing a messy play with colors or playdough, a yoga session, bear walk, throwing and catching a balloon etc.
Don’t jump on reading and writing for at least one month or till the child develops the baseline skills for these activities. if you want him to practice writing you can paste printing papers on the wall; dip your finger in poster color and write letter or number with your fingers. Prompt the child to do so. Use easy clean poster colors to save wall paint.
5- Expect the Unexpected & Stay Firm
Be ready for the worst of worst behaviour because the only way to fix the issue for once and all is to let him show all anger and show him that it is not going to work. For instance my son used to cry hysterically and for a moment the motherly myself thought that I am the worst parent but in the next minute I knew that I am doing for his good.
if the child cries, do not say “don’t cry”, rather make up a story that a child was busy crying when someone ate his chocolate. Or else divert his attention to something constructive.
The child may also throw objects, so be proactive and hold his hands rather than saying no or something. Hold his hands if tries to hurt himself but never use the word “no” or “don’t”
And yes, start with 2 minutes sitting tolerance practice, and gradually increase it. Our kids can’t take too much at once. After 2 minutes of your preferred activity reward the child with whatever he loves doing, i.e. let him jump on the trampoline, dance, or play with the ball or car or any other favourite toy.
Get involved in something that the child enjoys most like I jump and dance with my son because he loves these two things and this is a great way to tell them that the world they live in is so amazing. We enjoy their world and they take more interest in ours…… fair enough!
Wrapping it Up:
Improving sitting tolerance in kids with Autism and ADHD is a great way to increase their attention and teach them the desired academic skills, however, it cannot be done overnight. Take a deep breath and never give up…. Because this is the only way to go!