Keeping Children with Special Needs Learning During the Pandemic

Keeping Children with Special Needs Learning During the Pandemic


We are living in a challenging time caused by the Coronavirus epidemic. In particular, students with special needs such as autism may be the most affected by the transition to remote or distance learning. These children may require 1:1 attention or specialized teaching techniques such as discrete trial instruction (DTI) to learn effectively. Many parents are now struggling with how to help their students learn while they are at home. As a result, we decided to put together an article to discuss some simple options for these students to continue learning while they are home from school due to the pandemic.

Challenges with Remote Learning:

Children with autism may particularly struggle with remote learning due to the absence of various prerequisite skills. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty staying seated for an extended period of time
  • Limited reading ability
  • Challenges understanding and following directions
  • Distractions when learning on the computer

Although the resources we list below will not totally eliminate these problems, we believe that highly visual, interactive, and engaging materials will help students to learn during this pandemic.

Free Remote Learning Resources:

There are some excellent free remote learning resources that have been developed, even prior to the pandemic. With the exception of the first resource (created by us), these were not specifically made for children with autism or influenced by principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). However, they are excellent resources that can be integrated into a home learning program with minimal adult oversight and supervision, depending on your child’s abilities.

  1. Identifying Objects by Color – Free Google resource created by us (ThinkPsych) to use with children that are learning to identify objects by color. It is set up like discrete trial instruction (DTI) in ABA. You will have to sign up for a free TeachersPayTeachers account to download.
  2. Scholastic Learn at Home – Completely free resource for kids ranging in age from PreK to Grade 9. Really well done.
  3. Khan Academy – Probably one of the best and most comprehensive free learning resources on the internet. They have content for all age groups.
  4. Khan Academy Kids – Free app for iPad/Amazon/Android that is geared for ages 2-7. Great for independent learning!
  5. ABCMouse – Very popular resource with thousands of activities for children ranging in age from 2 to 8. Free for 30 days right now. They cover reading, math, science, art & colors. Used by a lot of schools/teachers.
  6. Adventure Academy – A virtual game where children can learn reading, math, and science. Made by the creators of ABC Mouse for kids 8-13 years old. Also free for 30 days.
  7. Amazing Educational Resources – A huge list of free educational resources. It’s a bit overwhelming, but there’s something for everyone here! I suggest bookmarking this page.

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