Mom School: When You Must Become the Teacher & the Therapist

As a result of the current coronavirus pandemic, today has been almost a week since my nearly five-year-old son has attended his in-center ABA therapy (which he calls ABC School) or his ESE preschool (which he calls PreK School). Each morning he has asked me, “Today I go to Prek School or ABC School?” To which I have replied, “No, you stay home with Mommy and Daddy.”

Because he has ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder his brain works differently than his same-age peers. He wouldn’t understand if I explained why his world functions differently now. I know he must be confused. I’ve simply told him, “PreK School and ABC School are all done right now.”

Like many other parents, I have currently taken on the role as my son’s homeschool teacher. But unlike other parents, in addition to becoming my son’s teacher, I must also become his ABA therapist.

He has been in ABA therapy for nearly two years with great success. With the future of our schools and other educational programs on pause and no way to know when that may change, I created a hybrid at-home PreK and ABA program for my son. Today was day 2 and it went great!

To begin with, we are following the same morning routine we followed when he used to leave for school or therapy. He has his medication at the same time and eats the same breakfast. I have him change out of pajamas into a polo and khakis. Then as Dad heads into his office for a day of working from home, my son and I head upstairs to his playroom for Mom School.

For Mom School, I created a very structured Daily Schedule based on his schedules at preschool and therapy and with consideration being given to our family schedule.

To keep organized, in addition to the schedule, I used a blank teacher lesson plan book to write in each Topic, such as Morning Chores and Circle Time, and the Activities, such as Getting Dressed and Letter of the Day.

I made sure each activity would also target his IEP and ABA goals. For example, today for the Topic of Social/Science Themes I chose to focus on Safety. We used an activity from a Lakeshore Learning Safety Theme Kit with cards and a magnifying glass to discover which choice out of two is safe. During the activity, in addition to him learning about safety, I was working on helping him tolerate transitioning from one activity to another, following instructions, sharing with an adult and then cleaning up after an activity all of which are IEP and ABA goals.

After a few activities, he is given a timed 10-minute break for independent play. I also have three Gross Motor breaks scheduled throughout the day where we either go outside and play on his playground, run around in the backyard, swim in the pool, take a walk, dance inside to music or create an indoor obstacle course which is another product from Lakeshore Learning. Also in the schedule are his lunchtime, an afternoon snack as well as a simple art project and an afternoon movie-time or nap.

Day One he was a little confused but he did fantastically. At the end of the day, we were both exhausted! Day Two he woke up and excitedly told his Dad, “Today is Mom School!” That was music to my ears!

Like most of the world, we don’t know how long our new norm will last. But if you find yourself now at home full-time as the primary caregiver, teacher, and ABA therapist of your also now at home full-time ASD child the following tips may each day be a more positive experience for you both!

  1. Create a schedule for your entire day.
  2. Schedule in break-times for both you and your child.
  3. Use the same morning routine as before.
  4. You and your child should get dressed in real clothes each day. Getting through this is all about mindset. Pajamas are for sleeping.
  5. Be excited to work with your child!
  6. Reach out to their teachers and therapists for suggestions for activities and online schooling or therapy opportunities.
  7. Put things on pause that interfere with accomplishing your daily goals with your child.
  8. Remember, this is temporary. Life will get back to normal. For now, your child is looking to you for what their new normal should look like so provide them a structured, predictable daily routine.
  9. This is not a long-term weekend. Your child has educational and perhaps behavioral or speech or occupational therapy needs. It’s time for you to take on the responsibility of making sure those needs get met.
  10. Don’t forget to ask for help. If you begin to feel overwhelmed help may be in the form of a phone call to a friend, or asking an older sibling to step-in for a moment.

Time is just a moment we occupy in this brief spin around the planet. – Ray Manzarek

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Helpful Downloads and Links to Educational Materials for Preschool

Barclay’s Schedule

Lakeshore Learning Circle Time Center

Lakeshore Learning Theme Boxes

Thinking Kids Complete PreK Workbook

Scholastic Little Leveled Readers

Melissa & Doug Fresh Mart

Indoor Obstacle Course

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Amy Nielsen lives in Orlando, Florida. She is the proud mother of four children ranging in age from 3-30! She and her husband, Brent enjoy sports and traveling. Amy is a former teacher with 20 years experience, a freelance writer, and special needs advocate. Her mission is to help educate and empower families of children with disabilities to focus on their child's interests and strengths.

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