Distance Learning for Gifted Kids During the Quarantine Part 2
In a previous blog article I gave pointers for adjusting to distance learning for those kids who aren’t usually home schooled, as well as to those families already homeschooling who are struggling because they can no longer do field trips or physically socialize. I gave ideas for keeping calm, adjusting to the changes and managing stress. I hope that helped. Now that many kids are distance learning and adjusting to a new way of doing school, I think it’s also important to talk about what it’s like for gifted kids in the virtual classroom, and ideas to help your child thrive during this time.
Currently, many schools are working to have a good online curriculum for kids with minimum prior planning. No one expected to be quarantined for the remainder of the school year, and most programs are experimental as a result. There are many challenges, which include providing learning opportunities to families who don’t have access to a computer or the internet and students whose parents are working and cannot assist them.
Schools and teachers must meet the needs of the general population, as well as continue to provide services to students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Where does this leave gifted students, who don’t have accommodations to support their learning needs, and those who do not thrive in the traditional classroom to begin with?
The answer to this question, of course it is highly dependent on the school, the teacher and the child or teen. The way schools are handling this situation varies greatly from school to school. One positive consideration, when done successfully, distance learning provides many kids with a routine and structure they may not have without it. Routine and structure creates a greater sense of safety and normalcy for children and teens, which is extremely important right now when so much is scary, uncertain and disrupted. Some gifted children and teens are also thriving in schools where they are given more autonomy to finish their work at their own pace and work on their own projects through distance learning.
Here are some of the most common problems I have observed for highly sensitive, gifted children who are not given the adequate balance of structure and autonomy, or recognition of their needs, and ideas to help.
Students feeling overwhelmed by group chat style classrooms.
Feeling too embarrassed or uncomfortable to speak up during a video class
Teachers not being attuned to the needs of the gifted students
Students being bored by repetitive or redundant lectures and having to do work they have already learned instead of being able to work ahead
Teachers not maintaining agreed upon schedules or control over the class leaving sensitive children feeling physically and emotionally exhausted
Kids refusing to participate in online classes, or refusing to do work assigned to them
All of the aforementioned challenges require working closely with your child’s teachers or administrators when possible.
It is important to approach them with a friendly tone, expressing acknowledgment of the challenge they are facing teaching in a new format and your desire to partner with them to help your child to be successful. Explain your child’s challenges to the teacher and ask for ways the child’s needs can be met. Feel free to make your own suggestions such as:
Child be permitted to take a break from the group when feeling overwhelmed, or if class goes over time scheduled
Student may be permitted to send a private message to teacher with questions instead of talking in front of the group, especially when addressing more private matters like wanting to work ahead.
Be in communication with teacher about what level your child is working at and if they are ready to move to a higher level or do an independent project. Be able to provide evidence to the teacher of what your child is doing.
Ask the teacher if it is okay for the child to do homework during the lecture if it is not disrupting the class. If the student isn’t on camera, and only listening, permission may not be needed.
Provide articles/information that supports your concerns, as many teachers don’t understand some of the unique challenges of gifted children.
You can also work with your child to minimize stress.
Try to stay calm and minimize negative discussions in the presence of your child or teen.
Maintain a healthy routine which includes a consistent bed and wake up time, which allows them to get the amount of sleep needed for their age.
Insure they are eating a healthy breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Provide a dedicated learning place when possible. This space should be away from distractions and siblings.
Help them to take movement breaks.
Help them to take fun breaks and encourage play, even for teens.
Encourage them to socialize with their friends, and point out online school might allow them to see their friends in the classroom.
If they are unwilling to participate in the class offer to do it with them, and be on the sideline. Take it slow as they adjust, and be in communication with the teacher.
If they are refusing to do the classwork, make it part of their routine, doing a little at a time, with short movement and fun breaks in between. Since they are at home, many kids may have a difficult time switching their mindset from home time to school time. Having a structure and routine in place will help with this transition.
If you are working from home, you can set a good example and parallel school with work. As you are keeping a schedule and working, they will be keeping a schedule and working from home too.
Help them to have at least one thing to look forward to each day, and reward their efforts, even if they are tiny. Studies show, positive reinforcement is much more effective than punishment.
Talk to someone. Plenty of helpers are here for you and your children. Research shows online therapy is just as effective as meeting in person. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support in your area!
About the Author: Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body. Christy also provides telehealth services throughout the state of California.