by Zafer Elcik, from SPED Homeschool partner Otsimo
For a very long time, we’ve known that the best course of action when it comes to special education for children with special needs is early and intensive education that fits their needs. The past two years of the pandemic have shown us that in a world where there is already inequality in terms of access to quality education, a hiccup in the system can cause even more trouble.
Unfortunately, many people weren’t able to access education in general during this time period. This gap in access was even larger for those who were receiving special education and speech therapy support. This is the reason mobile solutions to special education, speech therapy, and homeschooling were suddenly on the rise.
Additional mobile solutions and educational support are nothing new for special education spheres. With the pandemic on the rise and everyone at home for their safety, they became of greater importance and attention was paid to effective homeschooling solutions for neurodivergent children.
Traditional education solutions sometimes fall short in providing the necessary, tailor-made interventions for kids with learning difficulties. With the pandemic, the systems in place such as IEP, which are there to help cover these gaps, were not being implemented at their most effective level. Naturally, parents and caregivers looked for materials they can leverage at home.
Education doesn’t have to be in a single form. Currently, we have solutions that help integrate neurodivergent kids and children with other learning difficulties into a system developed with neurotypical children in mind. However, there are many things to say about how each and every single child learns differently and at different rates. Being able to school children at home proved this point.
It is possible to teach young children even with mundane items at home. When you are cooking dinner they can learn about the ingredients, or you can sit down and color by numbers. Each and every process teaches kids some essential skills. When we switched to distance learning, some kids with learning disabilities and difficulties struggled even harder as it may have been difficult for them to focus outside a school setting.
With a pen and paper a parent or guardian can study with their kids, but they don’t have to. There are low-tech and high-tech solutions that are specifically designed to teach children with special needs skills and curriculum based on their developmental level and struggle areas that sometimes come without much financial burden. In addition, these solutions also provided relief for families already burdened with the anxiety of being asked to access special education solutions by professionals.
For children with autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA) activities, a scientific technique where the goal is to understand behavior and how the environment affects this behavior, could boost a child’s education at home. ABA could also target a child’s learning disabilities to motivate them to achieve a specific learning goal.
A simple example of such an activity could be devising a color sorting game to target many developmental aspects. Get your hands on some colorful pom-poms and containers, and instruct your child to sort them into groups of the same colors. This will help them improve their understanding of colors, while also working on their fine motor skills when they pinch and drop the pom-poms. This is just a simple example of activities at home that could prove immensely useful.
Besides solutions that have been in use for many years, there are also mobile solutions that are high-tech. The mobile, high-tech, solutions out there address various topics, from learning letters and maths to social skills such as taking turns. Companies focusing on developing such solutions like Otsimo also offer information and suggestions so as to keep parents and caregivers informed.
Mobile solutions are now viewed as essential aides at home when it comes to homeschooling. It is possible to find an abundance of solutions that target different needs and can fit different budgets. The competition is especially high with high-tech solutions as smartphones and tablets are comparatively easier to access in the last couple of decades.
Now that we know mobile solutions, low- and high-tech alike, can be powerful tools in homeschooling, it is time for a perspective change in the big picture. There needs to be more investment, research and development efforts channeled to creating mobile solutions, more collaborations that help increase access to solutions by making them free of charge or at low prices where parents and caregivers can apply and implement these at home with ease.
In school, at home, in the car while traveling: every opportunity is a learning opportunity and we can make this happen, because we have the tools and the know-how already at hand.
Zafer Elcik, is the Co-founder of Otsimo, a mobile education platform for children with disabilities that he originally designed with a friend to meet the learning needs of his younger brother on the Autism spectrum.