A Guide to Online Learning

Online learning is new to everyone and can be challenging for both children and parents.  Below are some tips by for parents to help navigate virtual learning with their child at home. 

Don’t expect perfection from your child. This is new to them and they will behave differently than they do at school during this time. Attending to a computer is much different than attending to a teacher face to face. You may need to adjust your expectations of your child and their learning during this time and go with the flow of your child’s needs. 

Allow yourself, your child and teachers flexibility and grace during these extraordinary times. 

Caregiver helps a child with a developmental disability participate in a virtual classroom

1. Know your role

Distance learning is not the same as home schooling – parents are NOT expected to take the place of their child’s teacher. Instead, parents should play a support role and ensure their student is present and engaged. Simply put, be their best advocate. (Kern County Superintendent of Schools Advocates for Children, 10 Parent Tips for Distance Learning Success). 

A caregiver brushes their teeth alongside their child with a developmental disability

2. Keep your daily routine 

Get your children up at the same time and keep the rest of the morning routine the same (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth and hair) as if they were going to school. Keep your after-school routine and bedtime the same.

A caregiver and child create a visual schedule together

3. Use visuals

Schedule your child’s morning and afternoon with pictures, so he or she can see what will be happening and what is expected.

A child is set up to focus in a quiet environment with all the items they need

4. Create a space for learning

Sitting at a table, headphones if needed, where it can be quiet and distraction free. Have items such as fidget toys that may help your child focus.

A caregiver and child take a break and baking cookies together

5. Give breaks often 

You know your child and how long he or she can sit and attend. Allow for breaks before any challenging behaviour begins, even if it is not a schedule school break. During these breaks, have your child engage in physical activity, such as jumping, running, going outside. Breaks should not include technology.

Image of a clock counting down so the child can prepare emotionally for a transition

6. Set a “start to class” timer

Set a timer to go off 2 to 3 minutes before class starts to let your child know that class is about to begin. This way it is the timer telling your child that break is over instead of you. 

A parent and child with developmental disabilities play in the snow to get exercise

7. Allow for physical activity throughout the day

Some child learn and attend better when they are in movement. Your child may be able to jump on a trampoline AND pay attention to the teacher. As well, try to get your child outside at least once a day. Go for a walk, play tag, jump in puddles, play in the snow!

Parent and child sit down with their teacher to explain the child’s needs

8. Communicate with the teacher

Let the teacher know what works and doesn’t work for your child. Let them know that your child will be taking more breaks, etc.

A child smiles because their caregiver has given them positive affirmation

9. Praise your child

Praise your child throughout the day for any positive behaviours they are exhibiting. These could be small expectations such as sitting on a chair, answering a question, looking at the computer screen, being quiet.

A caregiver takes a moment to themselves to drink tea and rest

10. Practice self-care

Take time to focus on yourself at some point during the day as these times can be overwhelming. Taking deep breaths, mediate, have a bath, go for a walk. If you are feeling stressed, it is ok to go to another room for a few minutes for quiet. 


Jennifer Tysick, M.ADS(ABA), BCBA and Erin Yuffe, M.Ed; Senior Behaviour Therapists, Infancy and Early Childhood Department

By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO