Online learning creates new obstacles for students with behavioural challenges

Sep 24, 2020 | COVID-19, News

Due to Covid-19 Childcare workers Marvin Samuel had to close down his organization M Power excellence and transfer to virtual sessions.
Due to Covid-19 Childcare workers Marvin Samuel had to close down his organization M Power excellence and transfer to virtual sessions. (Reuters)
Nathaniel Marksman

Among the many facilities that have temporarily shut down, children who go to behaviour therapy have been trying to cope with the transfer to online programs.

Keisha Jackson, a mother of three knows this all too well.

Her second oldest son participates in a program called Stop Now And Plan, a program focused on helping children think of positive ways to control their emotions.

Although there are some technical issues with online, her son has adjusted to the virtual experience. But he misses the face to face interactions with his peers, Jackson said.

Because of COVID-19 she has stopped working temporarily, but uses the time to play, teach and interact with her three boys. She explains that both her and her son participate in the SNAP program which has helped them bond and grow together as a family.

“It has taught me that as a parent with children, that there are times when you have to just give and take and compromise,” Jackson said.

“The interactions through online meetings are not the same, but you have to learn to adapt. You have to adjust and as long as you accomplish what you need to that’s what matters.”

Work is more challenging

Marvin Samuel, who works for Delta Family Resource Centre and runs his own organization called M Power Excellence is a family and childcare worker, supporting, teaching and guiding children with behavioural issues.

However, due to the pandemic he finds his work to be more than just challenging.

Samuel has been working through the pandemic and has noticed that while some children like the extended stay at home break, but he worries about the children who are having a hard time coping at home.

“During COVID, it added another layer of what we describe as triggers, or things that set them off. For example, being inside for a long duration of time has impacted their ability to either get outside and play to interact with others,” Samuel said.

Samuel explains that in some cases, the real reasons why some children may have an unsettling childhood experience is because of what happens inside the household.

A lot of the work Samuel did prior to COVID-19 involved working in large groups with children which he calls safe, open and brave spaces. They allow each child the chance to be seen and heard in a non-judgmental environment.

“It was a balanced space where everyone is seen, heard, acknowledged. And then of course, that helps and enhances the ability of autonomy for the individual, but also inclusivity,” he said.

Technology issues

But due to health and safety precautions, he has moved his program to online and has had to learn a few technological skills.

“I personally never was an online learner. I’m not very good at online learning, or like spending a lot of time online. I really preferred the experience in person. But I’ve had to accept that this was the process,” Samuel said.

When working with children through an online session, Samuel can see the difference between virtual and in-person interaction. He said, when working with children in a real-life setting, they receive more undivided attention and can focus better with less distractions

He notes that in virtual sessions you can pick up on the cues and body language of the children when they seem to be distracted, or are having a hard time staring at the screen for a long period of time.

Samuel said once the pandemic is over, he wants to branch out to more children and parents and reopen his program.