Some of Our Kids Have Thrived During Distance Learning: Here’s Why

After another school year of distance learning for most of our kids, summer break is finally upon us. Distance learning has been overwhelming for many parents, lonely for many students, nearly impossible without expensive technology and reliable access to high-speed internet, and the cause of learning gaps for so many students — especially those with disabilities who weren’t given the accommodations they’re owed. At the same time, learning outside of a traditional classroom has given many students with disabilities greater flexibility, fewer distractions, more access to virtual programs, and more opportunities to be themselves in a familiar, personal environment, instead of trying to fit into what are often ableist school standards. 

For many children with social anxiety, distance learning has been an opportunity to excel academically because they’re not triggered by social stressors while trying to complete schoolwork. In fact, many people of all ages — regardless of disability — who experience anxiety in social situations have said they’ve thrived during the pandemic because they no longer felt pressure to conform to environments that never actually worked for them. Educators have also suggested that distance learning allows children and teenagers to finally get enough sleep since they don’t have to commute to school or spend as much time getting ready in the morning, and they can schedule time to rest throughout the school day if they feel unwell or tired.

How are some students with disabilities thriving under distance learning models? 

  • In this NPR article, parents of children with ADHD, autism, and seizure disorders point to more accessible school materials and heightened focus.
    • One parent notes that her child couldn’t focus during live, in-person lessons, but can rewind and relisten to recorded lessons as often as he needs to when he is distance learning. 
    • Another parent explains that keeping assignments and readings organized as digital files on one computer, rather than written in different notebooks or stashed away in different folders, has helped her child develop better organizational skills.
    • One student says he can focus better because he’s working in his room, where he is the most comfortable. 

We wanted to know how distance learning has positively affected our community, so we asked Undivided parents and staff to share how learning at home has benefitted their children.

Academic Gains

“We’ve seen gains in communication with my daughter’s AAC device. She won the tech award at her school for her amazing progress with her AAC device and distance learning. She loves screens, so she paid more attention to her teacher and lessons.”  — Rebecca, Undivided Care Care Navigator and parent

“My son couldn’t focus in a traditional classroom setting and had an IEP goal to count to 20. He’s now doing simple multiplication and solving for X equations. Example: 17 + X = 24. His one-on-one educational time has really shown us that he’s capable of doing grade-level work when given proper support, education, and accommodations.” —Michelle, Undivided parent

“My oldest son has always had a 1:1 aide to read assignments and scribe for him, and we were worried how this would work virtually, but it was great. He dictated essays to her via Zoom, which were honestly masterful — I don’t know anybody else who can write like that. Not unrelatedly, we found out at his fifth-grade graduation that he won an academic achievement award for excellence this year.” —Jennifer, Undivided writer and parent 

 Improved Health

“My daughter was healthier this school year staying at home than during any previous cold and flu season. Not being sick all the time meant being able to concentrate on growing and learning instead of healing.” —Rebecca

 Happier Mood

“My daughter loves school but has a hard time with her anxiety. At home, she’s had fewer incidents of high anxiety involving self-destructive behavior. And more play! She was able to play more in her comfortable environment.” —Rebecca

“My son weathered the pandemic better than any of us — while I know he was at times bored and lonely, he was also free to be himself. He could stim whenever he wanted, disappear into audiobooks during breaks, and he didn’t have to leave class early to go to the bathroom or because it took him longer to navigate the campus with his wheelchair.” —Jennifer

Physical Therapy Gains

“We’ve been doing virtual PT and using my daughter’s gait-trainer and furniture for all her PT needs. Now she has increased strength, improved mobility (crawling and tall-kneeling), and can stand against furniture with assistance. Doing her PT activities at home meant working on her goals in a relaxed environment.” —Rebecca

“We spent seven months of the pandemic school year with my husband’s parents, and for the first time in my son’s life, he had to use stairs every day. He totally mastered them, which had long been a PT goal.” —Jennifer

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