Zoomers gotta Zoom
August 19, 2020 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Tips for online class success for older kids with autism and/or ADHD - let's hear them! General advice welcome, specifics of this kid's particular plan inside.

My kiddo is 17 and in community college. She's focused on carpentry and will doing the hands on portion of these classes in person, but lecture will all be online. School is always tough for this kid, and mostly online is VERY challenging as the computer is a distraction pit and for all the other reasons that this stuff is hard for everyone.

She is choosing to take a full load, but I am very open to her dropping classes if she finds this is too much.

Strengths: quick learner, strong reader & math skills. Has access to a good disabled student services dept who can help her create accommodations. (She already has some in place but suggestions for additional accommodations welcome)

Challenges: easily distracted, a natural affinity for multitasking can lead to inadequate attention on class content, easily energy-depleted in this kind of setting, can be rigid

Classes: Beginning CAD, digital fabrication (using various computer programs to design and manufacture) roof framing (half in person, half lecture online), figure drawing, song writing

So some training in how to use computer tools for building, some building classes, and some arts classes.

Note: We have tried many versions of internet blockers with very, very modest suggest: she is ingenious at finding workarounds, and the blockers invariably block some necessary website or what not so can slow her down or just be annoying, but we're open to suggestions around this if you have good ones.
posted by latkes to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In terms of content blockers - does she need internet access / a computer during class aside from watching the lecture? If not, and if you have or could get an iPad, you can use guided access and a passcode to lock the iPad on just the one app. She could also leave her phone with you to avoid getting distracted by it. Actually, no matter what, I’d suggest putting her phone in a different room during her classes - it’s so incredibly easy to be drawn in by a notification and then get distracted on a phone.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:51 PM on August 19, 2020

Has she tried fidget toys or something similar during lectures? That might help occupy the extra floating attention that wants to check her phone or another website. If she needs to have her hands free there are fidget toys that you can use with a bare foot. I was excited about the fidgipod but then I ended up with a spikey massage ball meant for plantar fasciitis and rolling that around with my feet during a zoom session is much more satisfying than the fidgipod.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:07 PM on August 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

Fidget toys! I like low profile ones best because they're not visually distracting. She has to decide for herself which ones she likes best - a lot of people like tangles, fidget cubes, one of the 10,000 kids of stress balls out there now, fidget pens, fidget bracelets... the list goes on. There's also things like theraputty, that give movement with a little more tactile input.

She can also experiment with modified seating - she could try a standing desk if that helps maintain focus and prevent musculoskeletal pain from being hunched up on zoom all day. She can also try a therapy ball and various kids of cushions that allow for more movement. A theraband around the front legs of her chair, if possible, helps a lot of people.

Movement breaks, especially anything incoporating heavy weight, can be very soothing. That means that if she does any kind of pushing, pulling or lifting on her breaks, it may be soothing. It can also mean doing exercises that give input to her joints, i.e. being on all fours in yoga gives pressure to her arms. I find sitting with my legs going up a wall bizarrely soothing. This is apparently a thing.

I would also highly suggest setting up a designated area for her to do schoolwork and schoolwork ONLY. It should be in a remarkably boring environment with minimal to no distractions. She should ONLY do schoolwork in this location and, if possible, she should always do schoolwork in this location; even her bedroom, I'm sure, is full of distractions.

I also find walking breaks highly relaxing and good for restoring focus.

Finally, the best advice I can give is for her to really, really try working in small increments. I can't speak for autism, but my ADHD makes it nearly impossible to cram and then do everything at the last minute. I clam up and then just cannot focus. She needs to learn to recognize when her brain is in a focusing mood, work her fucking ass off when that mood hits, and then stop when it passes. The coveted Focus Mood is a random and unpredictable occurrence, but it will come and learning to use it to her advantage will benefit her tremendously.

Good luck!
posted by Amy93 at 5:10 PM on August 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

If the registration system permits it, your daughter might want to enroll in 6 courses and drop the least promising class during the add/drop period. (Maybe a gym course?) By the way, taking a part time course load has to potential to be a double edged sword if EFF (executive function fail) brain thinks, “great! Now I have more time to procrastinate on my other courses.” EFF-brain may also be prone to thinking that late/ evening classes are a good idea “since surely I’ll be awake by then, but forgets to consider medication schedules and the lure of evening TV.” Some online classes are both live streamed and recorded for later viewing. If this is the case, your daughter should plan on “attending live” (and fill in any gaps with the recording), instead of falling into the “oh i can always watch the lecture later trap.” For some, anxiety and feeling of being overwhelmed can contribute to procrastination. A partial solution is to create and commit to a weekly schedule (including class time and study blocks) from week one.

Is her work space (outside the bedroom if at all possible) and equipment (e.g. headset) comfortable? It might be nice to have a standing while studying option, as well as a place to study without a computer. An external monitor could be helpful, so there is enough screen real estate to watch the lecture / and run the computer program. Perhaps consider a smart speaker. A black and white printer with a duplexer makes it easy to print out things. Apologies to the trees, but reading a printout of a long pdf is less prone to digital distractions than reading it on the screen.

I agree that internet blockers are more of a last chance “are you sure you want to do this?” reminder than a true deterrent. However, if she buys into the premise that blockers can be be a useful tool, but struggles “in the heat of the moment” perhaps having several user accounts with different settings could be useful. For instance, the essay account would have microsoft word but no internet access. The school account blocks the most time wasting websites that are unlikely to be needed for school). (If youtube is a distraction and needed for school then maybe Youtube premium could be used to download the required videos in advance). The fun account has no content restrictions, but some time restrictions.
posted by oceano at 12:18 AM on August 20, 2020

Another thought-- perhaps there is someone (preferably not a parent) who could have weekly check-in meetings with your daughter to make sure she is staying on track academically and can help your daughter proactively address challenges/ upcoming deadlines/ study skills etc.
posted by oceano at 11:42 AM on August 20, 2020

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