Skip to main content

How Parents Can Support Children With Special Needs During Distance Learning (


Parenting a child with additional learning, attention, social-emotional, or behavioral needs has never been easy—and it’s not exactly getting easier. Distance learning and hybrid learning have created a whole new layer of challenge for the approximately 7.1 million children who receive special education services in American schools.

Here are the three most common challenges I have been seeing for children with special needs—and what parents can do when they see these challenges at home.

“My child cannot pay attention on Zoom”

“Zoom fatigue” is real, not just for kids, but for adults, too. Having to maintain constant eye contact, avoid the temptations of other tabs in a browser, and process visual information all day is a real strain on attention.

  • If you can’t sit next to your child while they are on Zoom all day, periodically check in and give encouragement, praise, and nonverbal support (a simple smile from across the room will do!). Try to “catch them” being focused and give acknowledgement.
  • If you can’t monitor your child during the day, ask the teacher to report back to you in a quick email or text when your child has a good day with focus, so that you can praise your child later.
  • Observe how long your child is typically able to focus on Zoom (10 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour?) and provide this feedback to your school team. If your child is really not able to focus for the expected length of “synchronous” time (time online with the teacher live), advocate for “asynchronous” learning time (on their own, off Zoom). This may look like being given a special hands-on project or modified work that they can do with a parent, off Zoom, and then share with the teacher later for feedback.
  • Allow movement and frequent breaks. Your child may focus better with a wiggle cushion, fidget toy, or while doodling on a whiteboard. They may need to use Bluetooth earbuds so they can listen and move about. If your child needs to turn off the video to take a refocusing break, make sure that they have collaborated with their teacher about how they access this break (e.g., send a private message in chat, raise their hand virtually, etc.).
  • During actual breaks, make sure your child picks an activity where they can move their body! has fun dance breaks and movement games that are only a few minutes long and can be done on a break.
  • Build in mindfulness activities as both a proactive and an “in the moment” strategy to reboot focus. Mindfulness has been shown to improve attention, concentration and mood.

To read more of Rebecca Branstetter's article,  please click here.

Add Comment

Comments (0)

Copyright © 2020, ACEsConnection. All rights reserved.
Link copied to your clipboard.