Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is an online course a good option for my child with learning disabilities?

Is An Online Course A Good Option For My Child With Learning Disabilities?
By Kay Johnson, Linda Broatch, M.A

First, you'll want to know if online instruction will work for your child. Taking a course or courses from an online school offers some potential benefits to kids with learning disabilities. The child can avoid the anxiety or embarrassment that his learning difficulties may cause in a classroom setting. If a child is stigmatized or even bullied as a result of his learning problems, online courses can help reduce the distractions that result from these issues. Pacing of instruction in an online school can be highly individualized.

However, especially for children with language-based learning disabilities, an online school may not be a workable choice because content, assignments, and assessment may be largely text-based. Parents will want to ask some basic questions, including:

* Do you have reading specialists on staff to work with my child?
* Do you have academic counselors on staff who can work with our traditional school to determine whether an online course is appropriate for my child?
* What accommodations do you offer students with learning disabilities?
* Do you offer an audio option for delivering content?
* How flexible is the pace of the learning?
* Will the coursework help prepare my child for statewide or district-wide standardized testing in the relevant academic content area? * Will my child be able to use the assistive technology tools he uses at home (or school), for your courses?
* Does the school teach study and/or time management skills?
* How much time and effort is required of parents to support their child's online coursework?
* Does the school offer a trial period so that students can see if an online class is going to work for them?

Kay Johnson, FLVS Communications Liaison, says: "At FLVS we have a team of reading specialists to work with students with reading struggles. If a student is two or three grade levels behind in reading, we can probably come up with strategies to help them. But if they're farther behind than that, it will likely be difficult for them to achieve in this environment. Also, while 'at-risk' students who have family or social-emotional issues can really benefit from face-to-face support, they can do quite well in the virtual school environment with that little extra face-to-face help."

Will my child's traditional school accept online school credits?
Even if an online school has an established relationship with your state's public schools, you should find out whether online school course credits will be accepted by your child's traditional school, and if they meet college admission requirements. There are several basic questions you can ask:

* Is the school accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation agency?
* Do the school's courses align with your state's academic content standards?
* Does the school provide a list of lessons and a recommended timeline for each course?
* How many courses are offered, overall and within specific content areas?
* How often are courses updated?

"All of the courses at our school are accredited and mapped to state and national standards," says Kay Johnson, "but even in that case, to be safe, parents should still make sure before enrolling in online courses that the traditional school is going to accept the credit."


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