By Nicki Hayes

01st July 2020

Categorised in Good To Know

In this guest article, Kim Griffin, founder of online children’s occupational therapy solutions provider Griffin Occupational Therapy, shares advice on and links to proven tools for home schooling children with ADHD, autism, dyspraxia and other Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD).

As an occupational therapist specialising in supporting children with sensory processing disorders I’ve had the privilege to meet many families who home school through choice. I’ve also trained many special educational needs teachers and teaching assistants to meet the specific needs of children with sensory processing disorders such as ADHD, autism and dyspraxia. Over the last six weeks I’ve been in touch with some of them, who, I am so delighted to share, are doing well.

My social enterprise, GrffinOT, offers many training courses, some online and free. And, as the number of downloads that are being made during the current lockdown indicate a need, I’ve started to host a free fine motor skills activity class on Youtube too.

When I was asked if I could provide any advice to the FamilyCarersNet community on home-schooling through the coronavirus lockdown, the answer was, of course, ‘Yes!’

When I had a look at what your community offers, I thought it would be a nice place to hang around. So, I’m joining ‘The Pod’ and will be available there for a while to answer any specific questions you may have about supporting children with sensory or motor skill challenges.

In the meantime, here’s my top tips for resources that parents of children with sensory processing challenges can use to support them when home-schooling.

Tip 1: Use TEACHH to set up a successful routine for your child with sensory processing difficulties

As a parent of a child with sensory processing issues, you already know that routine, consistency and clear expectations are key. It’s worth remembering that you are already one step ahead of parents who are suddenly finding themselves at home having to adapt to this new reality! One thing that you may already be using is a visual timetable. If not, I encourage you to do so.

One useful approach to visual timetabling is the National Autistic Society’s TEACCH method. The approach sets up a clear timetable and also workstations.

This video gives a great overview.

This video gives a good overview of the National Autistic Society’s TEACHH method for visual timetabling.

The timetable, finished box and workstation concepts can easily translate into the home environment.

Whilst the core idea of the workstation is that children will be working independently in the long term, you can also use the structure at home for work that they need help with. The ‘work’ and ‘finished’ boxes give all children a great visual indicator of how much they need to do.

How to set up work boxes to help your child with special needs keep their focus

To set up work boxes you will need boxes and folders. You can use any box, you just need to make sure it’s clear that one is for ‘work in progress’ and one is for ‘finished work’. Often a different colour is used for each to help to clearly identify them.

For the folders you could use plastic sleeves if you have them, but zip lock bags will work just as well!

What to put in the work box

What you put in the work box will be individual for each child but some ideas are listed below. Initially the goal is to set up the routine. So, choose easy quick activities that the child can do. Spend the first week or two, or as long as you need, setting the structure. Help your child to understand that it’s work time. Work time means that you sit, you do each activity until it’s finished, then you move to the next thing on your schedule.

Some easy activities include threading, puzzles, matching numbers, tracing over numbers and colouring in. Once the routine is established you can then start to change the items in the box.

The beauty of the ‘work’ and ‘finished’ box structure is that you can increase the amount of work over time. I had one child who initially could only manage about 2 minutes. With a lot of adult support, he was able to do 25 minutes almost independently overtime.

The beauty of the ‘work’ and ‘finished’ box structure is that you can increase the amount of work over time. I had one child who initially could manage about 2 minutes. With a lot of adult support, he was able to do 25 minutes almost independently over time.

This system gives you the flexibility over the work children are doing. If you’re receiving work from school this would be a perfect addition to the work box. You can make the work harder. You can add in more things. If you can see they are unwell that day then you can put easier things into the box. If you know that you need to be finished earlier to make a call then you can put less in. The main thing is that you keep the structure/format the same.

The main thing is that you keep the structure/format the same.

Tip 2: Use social stories to help your child with special needs during coronavirus

The first thing that is usually suggested to help to support children with autism with change are social stories. Social stories are not just useful for children on the autistic spectrum though. They are useful for children with ADHD and other sensory processing or anxiety related conditions too. In fact, social stories can be useful to help all children understand change.

There are a number of social stories circulating that explain coronavirus. Some explain why children can’t see their friends or family. Some explain plans for working at home and how to keep a safe space too.

Here are some links to ‘Good to Know’ social story resources to help you support children through their coronavirus experience.

Specific social stories explaining Coronavirus /Covid-19 for children with autism

Stories explaining why you can’t see your friends

Stories explaining working from home

Tip 3: Know where to go when you need support guiding your child with sensory processing issues through their lockdown experience

There’s plenty of support around for children with sensory processing disorder, if you know where to go to find it.

Here are some ‘Good to Know’ links.

Other ‘Good to Know’ resources for parents of children with sensory processing issues

Other special educational needs specific resources:

If you’re looking for some training for yourself:

This is going to be a very different time for everyone.  If you find other resources that you think should be added to this page please tweet me – @Griffin_OT – or come find me on The Pod.

If you have a specific question I can help with relating to supporting a child with sensory processing difficulties, please ask away in The Pod!

Stay safe, stay and home and continue to follow health and government advice.

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