By now, many parents have been homeschooling their kids for over a month.  For some, it has gotten easier but for some it is just a big, huge, epic disaster.  It may seem like your child is never going to listen to you.  I have good news and bad news. The bad news…. A lot of schools may not reopen for a while. The good news– I can help.

Tip 1: Designate one area for homeschooling

When I was asked by the New York Times (see article here) this week what my best tip was for parents to get their kids to listen to them, it was to designate one area for homeschooling. That area should ideally be a place that the child does not have prior associations such as a playroom.

Kids associate specific places with specific behaviors. Your child probably associates home as a place to play and not to work. Creating a new space will create a new association. It can be as simple as getting a new homeschool table and putting it in the corner of a room your child doesn’t usually play in such as a dining room.  (See video below for more details on how to get your child to sit and work with you)

Tip 2: Bribe Your Child (AKA Reinforce them for Appropriate Behavior)

Behavior analysts will swear that when we talk about reinforcing behaviors– it’s not bribery. I even made a video once on my Youtube channel explaining how you can use reinforcers to show a young child with Autism what a correct response is and titled it “Is ABA Bribery?”

Let’s get real for a minute. When we talk about rewarding a child for “good behavior,” we are really talking about bribing them to do what we are asking!  When as therapists we say,  “It is all about the motivation!: or “The reinforcement must match the response effort!” — What we really mean is if you want then to do something they don’t want to do, you better convince them it is in their best interest.

If you have to give your child more time on the tablet than you usually would to get them to complete a worksheet or you give a few more M and M’s than usual in order to run some discrete trials, you did not fail as a parent. Give yourself a break. Know you aren’t the only one struggling. Everyone is.

This is temporary. Do what you have to do to make it work and give yourself some grace.

Tip 3:  Take lots of movement breaks.

Kids know something is wrong. But, they probably don’t fully understand what it is or what it means for them.  Just like you are going stir crazy, so is your child. Their world has been thrown upside down and they don’t know why.

If your child engages in sensory behaviors, all of this added stress is going to make them worse.

If your kid is running around and climbing all over the house– and you — They probably aren’t choosing to do it!  At a neurological level Autistic children have issues with executive functioning. This happens when too many cortical neurons are produced in the frontal cortex of the brain and communication with the rest of the brain is inhibited. It is the primary cause for stimming behaviors in kids with Autism. (See video below on sensory)

In order for your child to be able to regulate their behavior they will need to get their energy out.  Doing a lot of movement activities such as using a trampoline, dancing, yoga or modifying activities to allow kids to move around will literally make them more available to learn at neurological level.  (See video below for examples on how to modify activities)

Videos referenced in this article:

In this video, I explain how reinforcers can be used to teach kids the correct response ….
In this video, I go over the 7 senses and discuss how they manifest differently for kids with Autism.
Here are 3 fun activities I do with early intervention students who won’t sit at the table.
In this video, I got into a lot more detail about getting your child to sit at a table and do homeschooling.