Challenges and Benefits of Remote Learning for Children with Autism

The pandemic has forever changed the way we approach education, and remote learning has unlocked different ways for teachers and students to interact and collaborate. The use of technology and different education apps and platforms has made it easier for children to continue their education even during a global pandemic. 

However, adjusting to and switching constantly between in-person and remote learning can be challenging for students with learning difficulties. For students suffering from autism, distance learning provides several benefits, but also a few downsides, or challenges, if you will. Let’s go over what those challenges might be, and how to overcome them at home and in the classroom. 

Benefits of remote learning for students with autism

Just like remote working does not work for everyone, remote learning is not a good fit for every child. At a young age, children require interaction with teachers and other students; however, for children on the autism spectrum, distance learning can have some important benefits. 

Pace and flexibility

Children and adults suffering from autism don’t always perform at their best when forced to follow a standardized curriculum or a universal pace. More often than not, autistic students will perform significantly better if allowed to study, learn, and understand at their own pace, and remote learning allows them to do just that. It can offer children more control over how and when they learn, without any pressure or distractions from a teacher or other students in the classroom. 

Remote learning also allows for more flexibility and lets children establish their own schedule, with oversight from their parents, of course. For instance, a child who lives far away from school won’t have to wake up bright and early every morning to catch the school bus. They can spend that time sleeping, on their morning rituals, or preparing for the day ahead – whatever helps them function and perform better at school. Time spent going to and from school is freed up for other activities, such as reading, exercising, sleeping, and other hobbies. 

Reduced stress and anxiety 

In-person interactions and classes can be challenging for children suffering from autism. Sensory overload during classes and in breaks can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety, and can be detrimental to a student’s wellbeing and mental health. Children suffering from autistic disorder are a lot more sensitive to outside stressors, and the high-paced energy of the classroom can lead them to feel exhausted and drained at the end of the school day. Remote learning takes that pressure and anxiety away and allows children with autism to study and interact in a quiet and relaxed environment. 

Unfortunately, children suffering from learning disorders such as autism are often also targets of bullying at school, which can have a tremendous impact on their academic performance and self-esteem. Learning remotely removes that from the equation, allowing children to focus on school and homework and not worry about what other students think of them. 

Challenges of remote learning for autistic students 

While it’s undeniable that remote learning can benefit children with autism tremendously, giving them the opportunity to focus and take control without any peer pressure or excess stimuli, it also comes with a few potential downsides. 

Isolation and regression

Learning remotely is a good way for children suffering from autism to escape and avoid the over-stimulating classroom environment. However, by eliminating this exposure altogether, children might become avoidant and become more isolated. When required to return to the classroom or interact with other children at social events, they might have a harder time adapting. 

The ability of these children to form social connections and friendships might also have to suffer, and they might become disconnected and isolated from the outside world. This can be detrimental to their progress and cause their disorder to aggravate instead of ameliorate. For these reasons, a hybrid learning system might be a better option for autistic children, so that they’re not cut off from the social world entirely. 

Overexposure to devices 

Without technology, these past couple of years would have been much more difficult for our children. Devices and apps have been helping children continue their education and stay in touch with their friends, colleagues, and teachers. However, too much time spent on devices can have a negative impact in the long run. 

Besides the danger of becoming isolated from the outside world, spending too much time on a computer, smartphone, or tablet can also lead to several health problems. Da Vinci Collaborative recently ran a survey asking parents about this, and they confirmed that overexposure to devices has created difficulties for their children, from issues related to sleeping, back pain and eye problems, to difficulties concentrating and lack of motivation. 

Remote learning comes with benefits and challenges alike for children with autism disorders, and it’s important for parents and teachers to identify issues and try to resolve them before they get any worse. Discussing the options and prevention methods with a qualified therapist or counselor can help children with autism navigate the challenges of remote and hybrid learning and find the best schedule and system for their unique needs.

To speak with a professional about this, reach out to Da Vinci Collaborative. We have experts on our team with years of experience working with children suffering from autism and other disorders, and they are ready to provide any information you might need. 

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