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Unchartered Waters: Distance Learning Tips and Resources

Dr. Misty Vetter Parsley

Professors like to have the answers or we like to know where to find them. But in March of 2020 when school children all over the world were beginning to learn from home, questions from my former students started rolling in. How do I teach students with disabilities online? How do I support parents in this process? The reality is most of us had no idea! These were unchartered waters. So I did what most professors do… I started gathering resources and reading everything I could get my hands on! I’ve compiled some of my favorite resources and tips to help teachers and parents work together as you too explore these unchartered waters.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make a plan together. Your child’s teacher knows how your child works at school. Parents know what is realistic in the home setting.
  • Create a routine. Routines provide predictability and reduce anxiety. These can be handwritten or drawn or use one of the sites below for ideas.

Establish and maintain realistic expectations. Having some expectations about how long you work before you take a break or how many activities you have to complete in a day will help all of you relax.

  • Take breaks and have fun! Think of some choices, or create some choice boards, so every child can choose their own fun activity. Breaks should be individual and based on child choice.
  • Talk about what supports are needed at home. What tools do you need for home to support your child’s communication? Parents can keep a list of times when communication breaks down or times when your child seems to want to talk. Your team can help with supports for these times!
  • Look for free resources. I’ve listed some of my favorites below!

Most importantly, give yourself GRACE! Give your child grace. Give your team grace. Remember these are unchartered waters and we are all just trying to stay afloat! Be creative! Have fun! Use your team! We can work together to successfully sail these unchartered waters!

“The danger of venturing into unchartered waters is not nearly as dangerous as staying on the shore, waiting for your boat to come in.” Charles F. Glassman

Favorite sites for resources:

Distance Learning for Special Education
Tech Tools for Engagement
Digital Calming Room
Transition resources
Free resources for special needs

Misty Parsley

Dr. Parsley has bachelors and masters degrees in Speech Language Pathology and a doctorate degree in Special Education Administration. She worked 15 years in the PK-12 education system including work as an autism consultant and special education coordinator in public schools. She has presented both locally and nationally on autism and postsecondary topics. Misty is an associate professor and the Director of Special Education Programs at Lipscomb University where she teaches in the graduate and undergraduate special education programs. She started the IDEAL program, Igniting the Dream of Education and Access at Lipscomb, in January 2014 for students with disabilities who would not otherwise be able to attend college. The students are able to participate in the social and academic aspects of college while learning vocational and daily living skills necessary to live independently.

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