Education June 2, 2021
U.S. survey highlights impact of remote learning on children with learning disabilities & their families
The shift to remote learning after the pandemic has affected children with disabilities the hardest. A recent survey in the United States underlines just how profound an impact this shift to remote learning is having on children with learning and thinking differences like ADHD and specific learning disabilities like dyslexia and dyscalculia. The survey highlights the academic, financial and emotional impact of the switch.
Learning disabilities are not easily understood as it is. Conditions like ADHD and dyslexia often go undiagnosed for long periods. They are also seen as weaknesses. As a result children with such conditions often find themselves further marginalised as compared to those with more visible disabilities. Now a survey has underlined how the existing challenges have been further heightened by the sudden shift to remote learning after the pandemic.
Challenges of remote learning
The survey by Understood, a United States non-profit dedicated to 70 million people with learning differences and provides children and adults with disabilities tools and resources for learning and working, was done in April this year. It looked at 1,500 U.S.-based parents of children between the ages of five to 18 years. These included families with children with and without learning and thinking disabilities. It looked at how the pandemic has affected their education, mental health and finances.
As we look to the next normal while still in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to understand the full impact remote learning had on our nation’s children, especially those with learning and thinking differences. Our study findings validate that those with learning and thinking differences are especially vulnerable at this time and that our mission to help these kids thrive is more important than ever today and moving forward. – Fred Poses, CEO, Understood
- During remote learning,72% of all parents surveyed became aware or noticed that their child may have a learning and thinking difference.
- 59% of parents of children with learning and thinking disabilities say their children are a year behind because of the pandemic and fear that they may never catch up. In contrast only 16% of parents of children without these conditions believe their children have fallen behind.
- Children with learning and thinking disabilities are three times more likely to experience depression due to changes in schooling.
- 48% of children with learning and thinking disabilities report extreme levels of school-based anxiety since the pandemic.
- 43% of all parents are facing a financial burden because of remote learning.
- 56% of parents with children with learning and thinking disabilities say that providing their children with academic supports has put a major financial burden on their family. The figure for parents with children without these conditions is 30%.
Hyper-engagement with online content and video games, difficulty regulating their emotions, lack of routine, lack of proper sleep, and inability to focus are the most common new behaviour’s that parents have observed in their children. “Children’s mental health has been greatly impacted by COVID-19”, says Dr Kristin J Carothers, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Understood Expert. “In some cases, parents are distressed and less emotionally available to their children despite working from home or in the event that they’ve lost their jobs and lack financial resources.”
Understood is working to close the gaps that the pandemic has exposed by working closely with parents.
Closing the gaps for families
Across the U.S. as schools and colleges gear up to re-open the pandemic learning impact survey shows that there’s much more work to be done. “Parents should also ask teachers to provide step-by-step examples of ways to complete work before addressing it with their children’, adds Dr Carothers. “Scheduling a phone or video call with the teachers individually might also help them to understand the specific techniques teachers use to teach their child in the classroom”.
There are also many skills that can be taught to children with learning disabilities virtually, says Dr Carothers. “As a clinical psychologist, I’ve learned first-hand that emotional and social skills can be taught using everyday examples with videos from the internet and practice. Our children are growing up in a world where many social interactions happen in virtual settings. Whether in a virtual classroom or online gaming platform, they are learning how to interact use appropriate social skills.”
These include interactive apps that allow for the teaching of social-emotional information. Even an internet search can yield videos or scripts on teaching basic social-emotional skills. There are phone-based apps allow children to learn skills on their own with teachers and parents serving as coaches to reinforce the materials that they learn.
As regards emotional well-being, parents must build in some time every day to engage in positive conversations with their children, recommends Dr Carothers.
“When children see their parents actively problem-solving and articulating difficulties, they are better able to do it themselves. Parents should be sure to engage in self-care and to make sure that their children follow as well. Self-care is a type of positive reinforcement and it’s important that we acknowledge that this has been a difficult time. There are many things that we’ve been able to overcome and do well. We should also acknowledge our children’s strengths and praise them for their ability to adapt and cope”.
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