There are bumps in the road for every child’s learning journey.
For parents of kids with diverse needs, the bumps often feel extra frustrating. They seem to happen more often and with more intensity than some other young learners.
However, there is help out there. Families of learners with ADD, ADHD, autism, dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, specific learning disability and other needs are paving the way by using technology to meet their learners needs in fun, supportive, small-group environments that work for them.
These online small groups help diverse learners through opportunities for more teacher-learner interaction, as well as beneficial peer to peer interaction.
This is happening right now, all over the world, through live video chat classes on Outschool.
After helping 1,000s of parents of kids with diverse needs, we’ve noticed a few common challenges. Here are three common challenges AND three ways teachers on Outschool are helping children with diverse needs love learning.
Challenge 1: Class moves too fast or too slow.
When learners move through a traditional class too fast, they get bored. While many without direct experience assume that diverse needs like ADHD may cause a learner to move slower than others, this is not always the case.
Some learners with ADHD experience hyperfocus, or periods of intense concentration. If they are reading or doing some other focused-based tasks, this might result in them finishing faster than others.
Learners with processing disorders need extra time to digest info, or ask and answer questions. If the teacher and others move on, then learners with diverse needs can get frustrated.
Challenge 2: Adults struggle to adapt to needs and personalities.
Taking care of the learning needs of one child with diverse needs can be challenging enough.
Then, throw in several children in a family with one mom trying to do it all. As one child need’s extra attention, another needs help with an activity they’re doing or is asking for a snack.
Or consider a class of 10-12 learners who all have their own needs. The teacher may be required to use one standardized curriculum, while doing their best to make the materials work for learners with many different abilities.
Regardless of the specifics of the situation, it’s no surprise diverse needs kids feel learning environments don’t always fit their learning styles.
Challenge 3: Diverse needs learners may feel isolated.
Learners with diverse needs may be in special education classes. This can separate them from friends in other classes. Additionally, many learners with diverse needs are homeschooled. This can help families better meet the learners' needs. But it also can contribute to social isolation.
A lack of social interaction can make it more difficult for any child to become an engaged, happy learner. Learners with diverse needs may already feel different from other kids.
Fortunately, Outschool teachers have helped thousands of parents manage these challenges while having fun with others from around the world.
How do Outschool teachers help learners with diverse needs?
Solution 1: Small class sizes help learners move at the best pace for them.
Outschool classes are small, which means there is lots of teacher-learner interaction. Learners with anxiety may feel less intimidated. They may feel more comfortable and welcome in the intimate video chat classroom.
Furthermore, some students with anxiety can chose not to use audio or video at all. Others may choose to turn on the audio or video later when they feel more comfortable with the teacher.
A recent article from the Connected Camps blog titled “How Online Communities Lower Social Barriers for Kids Across the Spectrum” said:
“An online environment gave [diverse needs learners] a greater control over the pace and content of their communications, which allowed them more time to both process and construct messages.”
On Outschool, learners often feel more comfortable asking questions a few minutes later. If they need more time to process the information, they won’t feel pressured or worried about keeping up.
Solution 2: Find the perfect teacher and class.
Many families find that the ease of communication with Outschool teachers is a lifesaver. Parents love that kids can choose class topics and teachers for their classes.
Diverse needs kids may feel stuck with a teacher. But on Outschool, learners can try out several different teachers until they find a good fit for their needs.
Just consider this Mom’s review after her dyslexic 9-year-old son took Tammy Wenhame’s Pokemon Book Club class:
“I now understand the Tammy hype! Not only is the content amazing and far exceeded my expectations, but Tammy is an absolute master at handling kids tangential interruptions and getting back on task, without making kids feel bad. My dyslexic 9yo said it was one of the best classes he's ever done and he wants to do more with Tammy.”
Families often develop relationships with particular teachers who the learners like. Learners with diverse needs may vary their choice of teachers to improve their focus.
Do your children have needs you want to share with your child’s teachers? You can create a learner profile for your learner that provides basic information as well as a custom note to the teacher on how to best support your learner.
Solution 3: Kids find a place to lean into all their quirky interests.
Often, learners are surprised to find others with their unique passion or interest. Many kids with diverse needs - and those without - are hyper-focused on a few topics they love. At the same time, these interests can fluctuate. One week a child may enjoy something, and the next week they can’t be bothered with it.
Parents also get relief from trying to figure out how to engage with their child on those topics the child loves while still keeping up with all of their other needs.
Because Outschool classes meet online, kids can connect with others from far away who love the topics their kids’ love, as well as stay connected with friends who don’t live close.
Here’s one mom’s review of the way Outschool helps her son stay connected with friends who moved away:
“My son had the absolute best time in this class. He had trouble going to sleep the night before because he was so excited...The most special part of the class was that he was able to take it alongside one of his good friends who moved across the country last year ❤️”
Ultimately, parents are using Outschool because it inspires their kids to love learning. For parents of kids with diverse needs, who may feel more frustration around the process of learning, it can be amazing to discover the freedom and customization the Outschool offers.
Thanks to Outschool teacher Erin Girard for providing feedback on this.