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Virtual Learning for Students with Significant Support Needs

Virtual Learning for Students with Significant Support Needs

Published: Aug. 13, 2020Updated: Oct. 11, 2022

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We were so excited to chat with Dr. Amy Hanreddy, associate professor in the Department of Special Education at CSUN, about how to make virtual learning work for our kids. We've prepared a curated deep dive into some of the great resources Amy discussed and provided the full-length video below in case you missed the live chat, as well as key takeaways and links from our discussion. (We recorded this conversation in 2020, but this advice is still relevant and helpful to many families continuing with at-home learning!)

For many of us on staff whose children have high support needs, it was revelatory to hear Amy talk about not trying to make home into school, but to build your child’s goals into the activities your family is already doing every day. Amy used learning an AAC device as an example. You can use the device while you’re:

  • Reading a book
  • Counting or discussing things around the house
  • Eating a meal
  • Going outdoors

And don’t assume kids should be doing everything at home that they would be doing at school. As in the above example, you can use fun activities like water play to work in communication strategies; or double down on screen time (yay!) and support reading and literacy goals with websites like Bookshare, We Are Teachers, Tar Heel Reader, and apps like Libby that offer free audio or video of hundreds of books being read aloud.

For families that aren’t receiving one-on-one instruction and guidance from teachers, how can you work with your school to get the individualized accommodations and modifications that can and should be provided? Start by asking for a meeting with your child’s teacher. It doesn’t have to be an IEP meeting — to hold an IEP right now requires a lot of coordination, and can delay putting programs together. Advocate for one-on-one meetings, and let your child’s teacher know what you’re hoping to get out of virtual learning, and which formats of instruction will work best for your child.

And in the meantime, check out the padlet that Amy and her team at CSUN have developed for teachers, districts, and families supporting students with significant support needs. Scroll to the right to find the tabs marked “Literacy Resources” and “Communication Supports” for daily and weekly activities you can use so you don’t have to come up with them on your own. There are great resources here for AAC. There’s also a tab on “Scavenger Hunts” for hitting those sensory, math, and literacy goals in a fun way. We’ll be breaking more of these tabs down in the coming weeks to share the programs and apps that will work best for different types of learners.

Most of all, prioritize sanity over curriculum and remember that learning happens while you’re having fun. Connection and routine are equally important.

View the curated resource list here.

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Undivided Editorial TeamStaff

Reviewed by

Undivided Editorial Team,


Dr. Amy Hanreddy, Professor of Special Education at CSUN

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