Children with disabilities are among the most vulnerable students, and this is especially true as coronavirus-safety measures have led to less classroom time and frequent closures. Parents of elementary school students with disabilities may be wondering how they can support their child’s special education at home. While schools continue to implement Individual Education Plans and mandated services regardless of the remote, hybrid, or at-school learning model, there are resources available to parents who would like to supplement learning at home. Here are the best resources to help with online learning for special education students.
Special Education Online Learning Resources for Parents
This public television program features lessons for children in 3-K through second grade. The lessons are taped by educators and focus on foundational reading and writing skills, literacy, math, science, social studies, and the arts. The series also supports social-emotional learning and brings viewers on virtual field trips to see dance performances, meet animals, visit botanical gardens, and more.
In the fall, the New York City Department of Education launched an online platform for families of public school children. It offers on-demand special education courses, including Sensory Supports for Students with IEPs, Intensive Teaching at Home, and Supporting Students with ASD.
Special Education Literacy Resources
Reading to and with your child is the most important thing parents can do to support literacy and vocabulary development. For students who struggle with reading, there are several foundational reading skills videos available via Let’s Learn, which can be accessed by anyone online.
This website offers resources for parents of struggling readers, including videos, research, guides, and a “Growing Readers” newsletter.
Parents can find leveled e-books for reading at home on Epic (getepic.com) and TarHeelReader.org. Both sites are free and can be used without a classroom account. There are also e-book databases and apps like Tumblebooks.com, Sora, and Overdrive.com that can be accessed via public library cards.
Special Education Math Games & Tools
For children who struggle with fluency in math, games can help. A number of sites such as CoolMathGames.com and ToyTheater.com have engaging games to practice basic skills. And if you want a break from the screen, look no further than board games. Many of the classics you already have at home, such as Sorry!, provide practice with numeral recognition, counting, 1-to-1 correspondence, and decomposition. And research shows that students with disabilities benefit from using math manipulatives, such as Unifix cubes, number lines, and base 10 blocks. Even household objects like paperclips can be used for counting, addition, and subtraction.
Play Areas at Home
John Goodson, assistant director of educational services and program development at AHRC New York City, notes that disruptions caused by abrupt school building closures are particularly challenging for special education students. To ease the transition, he suggests parents of young students set up play centers that mirror those found in the classroom. For example, one area of the home can be for building with blocks while another can be designated the dramatic play area. Young children learn primarily through play rather than academic tasks, and the familiarity of centers can provide comfort, in addition to stimulation.
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher
Finally, if you want to supplement learning at home, but you aren’t sure how, talk to your child’s school. “Reach out to the teacher. Say, ‘we want to do a little more. What can we do?’” says Tova Horowitz, senior special education teacher at International Academy of Hope in Harlem. Your child’s teacher may have specific suggestions and activities that support the curriculum and your child’s IEP goals.