5 Ways Online Learning Can Benefit Special Needs Learners

The following is a guest post by Gabe Nelson, a home tutor who specializes in working with diverse learners. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Often times when considering how to best help students with learning differences, people turn to extra one-on-one help like with home tutoring. And while that can certainly be beneficial at times it can be only too easy to overlook resources they have right in their own home with internet access. 

Being able to learn online, either as a supplement for the classroom or as the primary educational resource can be especially beneficial to students who would like to pursue a higher education degree but still require individualized support. 

With “special needs” being an all-encompassing term that includes those with physical disabilities, are neurodiverse as well as those with suspected or diagnosed learning disabilities. It may seem like online learning and home tutoring may be better suited for one type of need over another when the truth is, online learning and home tutoring can offer a great support for anyone. 

If you still find yourself unsure as to the many benefits that online learning can have for special needs learners here are five great advantages to this underutilized educational option. 

Flexibility

There really isn’t a typical day for students who are diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorders or other learning differences, and therefore the flexibility that comes from the ability to learn online can be a real lifesaver for those who want to get a great education but struggle with finding the balance in a typical educational setting. 

The true flexibility of online learning is that the work will be there for students when it works into their schedule and day. For those who may attend therapy centers and have frequent doctor’s appointments, the flexible atmosphere of online learning can help them avoid having to miss out on days on school and potential truancy issues that may result. 

Students with ADHD and other conditions can struggle with the ability to focus for extended periods of time, but when they are enrolled in a virtual classroom, they have the opportunity to move around when needed as well as being able to complete their work in a familiar setting that can cause fewer distractions for their brains to process through.  

For students who have struggled to find the balance between having their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Education Plans recognized and followed in high school, choosing an online learning path is a no brainer since the control is in the hands of each individual. Certain requests, such as untimed tests may still need to be accommodated, but online learning is better equipped to be flexible. 

No Travel Needed

Because online learning can occur from home, health compromised individuals can learn from a safe space without running the risk of being exposed to germs that could seriously harm them. It is also possible that if a student needed to be hospitalized for an extended period of time, they could complete the work so long as they had internet access. 

In a regular educational setting, a student may fall behind when they are unable to travel but with online learning, they can feel like they are part of a community and have the chance to form connections with others even when their physical limitations restrict how many people they can be around. 

Being able to learn from anywhere is a huge benefit that online learning brings to the community at large, and while it is often thought of for those who travel frequently it should not be overlooked for members of the community who for one reason or another are unable to make it into a classroom setting. 

Pacing Themselves

Simply because a student has special needs does not necessarily mean they aren’t academically advanced. It can be hard for these students to articulate their want to be challenged especially when paired with teachers who can’t overlook any secondary behavior issues or needs to recognize their intellect. 

Online learning offers the extremely beneficial option of being able to set their own pace. Whether they are highly motivated and would like to work ahead, or need the time and space to go a little slower than a typical classroom setting would allow, working online can give these students the chance to work at their own pace without a classroom 

Materials Tailored to Students

The right learning option can be tailored to suit whatever a student needs.  For instance, getting text-to-speech resources in a traditional classroom setting may be complicated but with assignments and texts available for online resources they may already be optimized to run through a specific program a student may prefer. 

It can be frustrating for students to feel as though they aren’t progressing the way they expect to, but online learning makes it easy for a student to reach out and ask for one-on-one coaching or instruction while saving them the embarrassment of standing out in front of a group. There is no reason a student needs to stand out as different when they are learning online. 

When the material is online as a video this also makes it possible for students to watch it many times until they can completely comprehend the subject matter, this wouldn’t be possible in other situations making the online classroom setup an excellent 

Appropriate Social Skills

While you may not immediately think of social skills being a benefit of online learning, certainly through group chats, video conferences and message boards students can build positive social interactions without some of the anxiety that in-person communication can bring to a situation. 

Knowing how to communicate appropriately online is going to be an excellent skill to have especially with the progress of communication online. With more people forming communities online, having multiple forums to participate in is only going to enhance their social skills further and help the students learn how to interact online safely. 

Group projects are a great way for students to engage and work together, building their problem-solving skills and helping them learn how to work as a team, all skills that may be more difficult or produce anxiety symptoms during an in-person class. Through the safety of their computers, they can learn these valuable skills in a way previously avoided for some students.

Conclusion 

When looking for a higher education course for students with special needs it is a wonderful idea to consider looking for online classes. Not only will it give students the potential and freedom to function without being limited by their extra requirements but it allows them to blend in with the rest of the students which may be a real relief for some. 

With so many benefits to learning online extending to everyone and not just those who have different learning needs, it isn’t any surprise that educational options have extended to online course work at a higher educational level. If you may need special accommodations on some level for your coursework, online learning is an option worth considering.  

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

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