Increasing Independence During Distance Learning

Resource Dec 14, 2020

Navigating a nontraditional school year is not without its challenges. With the majority of children participating in distance learning programs, we have put together some helpful strategies to increase your child’s independence during virtual learning.

Stay Organized

It is important to organize your child’s learning materials in a way that keeps necessary items easily accessible for both you and your learner. We recommend organizing school lessons and materials by subject using designated colors so your learner can easily access and identify them. To increase your learner’s independence in gathering their materials, create a color legend placed adjacent to academic materials and provide a verbal cue such as "Math is in the green folder."

Provide Plenty of Reinforcement

It can be difficult for children to feel successful or recognize when they are doing a good job when engaging with their teachers in an online classroom. Try creating a visual token economy to show your learner when they do something well or are following instructions. This can be done by creating a chart with stickers to earn for good behavior. For added interest, try selecting stickers or tokens that are themed to your learner’s favorite characters. You can also identify a preferred item, for example a small piece of a favorite snack or a small toy to give your learner once they have earned all of their tokens or stickers. If your learner has a hard time sitting at the table for long durations of time, it can also be beneficial to provide reinforcement for appropriate in-seat behavior or simply just for sitting down. Remember to pair the delivery of the token with lots of social praise and verbal encouragement. For example, you might say "Great job following instructions!" or "You are sitting so nicely!"

Use Prompts to Increase Independence

Your learner might need a additional help to follow their teachers’ instructions. Prompts are tools that help guide your learner to the correct answer. Your child will be able to learn more quickly and avoid frustration when prompts are provided and then slowly faded away. When the situation permits, use gesture prompts, like pointing, to help cue your learner to the correct answer and then slowly fade this gesture away.

We encourage you to not only set reasonable expectations for your child, but also for yourself. As a parent, you have now been tasked with taking on the role of teacher, in addition to the variety of responsibilities you already have. Give yourself credit for all of your efforts, and remember, you are doing your best, just as your child is. We know these are trying and uncertain times for everyone. We hope you find these recommendations to be helpful in guiding your child towards greater independence.