Teaching SEN kids at home

calendarMarch 28 2020

Emma Bara talks about how she and her husband have managed with teaching their SEN kids at home. She talks about how important it is to accept what can be achieved and offers some ideas for others to try.

We are teachers too!

Kids with Special Educational Needs (SEN) often require extra attention and can’t learn independently. During this Covid 19 crisis, we suddenly needed to become teachers as well as parents! It can be tough teaching at home, but teaching SEN kids at home can be especially challenging.

But we’ve always been teachers!‘ I hear you cry. Yes! We have always taught our kids – fun activities like cooking or gardening allow us to encourage reading, maths, science and creativity. These are without doubt the most fulfilling ways of teaching SEN kids at home and are amazing educational activities. However, many people (me included) will suddenly feel pressured to ensure that the kids do more formalised learning. That’s great if your child will happily sit down and do the work set by their teachers but if you have a child with special educational needs, that can be somewhat challenging.

The need for SEN Resources

We have two children with SEN at home. One has severe difficulties with literacy, which makes him incredibly reluctant to sit down and read or write, the other struggles with memory, comprehension and fatigue, as a result of a brain tumour. Both are unwilling to sit down alone and work independently. Both need prompting to put pen to paper, or even finger to keyboard!! Mine will never sit and read on their own nor will they stick to a school-like schedule.

Work to your child’s abilities

It is important that you work to your child’s, (and your own) abilities. Don’t put yourself under pressure if your kids can only concentrate for 5 minutes at a time, that is fine.

Our schedule consists mostly of short sessions of work interspersed with long sessions on the trampoline. My youngest will only work in the morning due to exhaustion and my oldest finds his online friends are far more interesting in the afternoon.

So we aim to do most reading and maths type work early in the morning. We have also discovered a walk first thing sets us all up for the day. More practical sessions like art, music, design technology are better a little later.

Find other solutions

You may also need to find other methods that work for you. We use every day activities as learning opportunities. For example, did you know you could teach maths while hanging out the washing? Talking about where cooking ingredients come from can spark an interest in history or geography. Pet care is a chance for learning personal, social, health issues! We share some ideas on how to include teaching into your every day lives here:

Image shows a cat sitting ona toilet lid, pulling down toilet roll off the holder.
There are learning opportunities around every corner! Pet care is particularly fruitful!

For us, it was finding a different way for our son to express himeself. After hours of battling to get my son to write answers to the work his teachers set, I realised we needed to find another solution. He hates writing and panics when he has to put things on paper, so one day I asked him to make me a power point. Now we have a 20 minute lesson on a topic and then I send him away to make a PowerPoint for me on that topic by the end of the day. He puts together witty narration with interesting images. Gives me more time to get on with my work, allows him more freedom to demonstrate his knowledge and I learn stuff!

Managing your work!

Of course, if you are trying to work from home at the same time, it is near impossible to homeschool at the same time, especially if your kids need extra help. I rarely get anything done before 2pm. If I do, it usually means that I let the kids play on the computer or watch TV a bit longer than I like. I am not going to beat myself up about it. We are all doing our best. We need to look after ourselves, body and mind, during this crisis.

SEN resources for home

The good news is there are some great resources out there for teaching SEN kids at home, and many of them are free. We have put together some ideas for home that do not need any preparation or special resources. Did you know that just waking up in the morning can be a learning opportunity? We show you how here:

About us

A family photo of Emma, David, Adi and Asher, sitting together in front of the computer. Adi is wearing a t shirt that says ‘cute’ in English and British sign language.

Emma Bara has taught about environmental topics and science for years, running whole school education projects, teacher training, science clubs for primary school kids and GCSE Science tutoring. David Bara has years of experience as a SEN teacher and Senior Lecturer of Special Educational Needs. They are the Co-Founders of WeCanAccess.

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